Have you noticed that McDonalds has been upping its image lately with newly-mod architecture?
The kitsch of yore is gone, replaced with Starbuckian elevations and furnishings. I don't quite know what to make of it. Seeing a stylish McDonalds is like meeting a monkey in a tuxedo. Will I have a more rewarding experience just because the packaging has improved?
Of course, McDonalds was never not modern. It's just that now it has moved from naive and corny to aspiring sophistication (of a sort).
Here's the dilemma: I am always an advocate of better design in any context, but when good design filters down to McDonalds is it trivialized? Have the semi-curved roof shapes and organic interiors favored by so many contemporary architects become so common that McDonalds - the lowest common denominator of pop culture - can use them with impunity?
McDonalds is still the same old McDonalds, trying to disguise itself as something better. Plus ce change, plus ce le meme chose. I am still looking for the "McCafe" I see in their ads: cool people drinking customized coffee drinks to the soothing saxaphone of a jazz musician. It doesn't exist, and I'm frustrated every time I search for it.
When you travel across the country every McDonalds menu is still predictable. The restrooms have the same fixtures, the order counter never changes, the ketchup bars are identical. Of course, the food is unvarying. We will never be disappointed at a McDonalds because it always delivers exactly what we expect it to. And now we are gently being offered the same repetitive mod look across the country and we are not offended. It is the pink slime of architecture: a processed filler that keeps us in a numb state of acceptance. None of this new design imagery at McDonalds is in any way challenging or inventive. It lacks the most important quality of good architecture: spatial experience. The new McDonalds architecture is surface treatment with no substance. Just like the food.