McDonald's restaurant by Mei Architects boasts a golden facade and a spiral staircase

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This McDonald's restaurant featuring a perforated golden facade and a grand spiral staircase was designed by Dutch firm Mei Architects to replace "the ugliest building in Rotterdam" (+ slideshow).

McDonalds Coolsingel by MEI Architects and Planners

Located on Coolsingel, one of the city's most popular shopping streets, the two-storey structure was conceived by Rotterdam-based Mei Architects as a golden pavilion with a facade of pixillated imagery.

McDonalds Coolsingel by MEI Architects and Planners

McDonald's had already occupied the site for 45 years, but until now the restaurant had been housed within a glass structure originally built in the 1960s as a cigar shop.

McDonalds Coolsingel by MEI Architects and Planners

Rotterdam's residents previously voted the building the ugliest in the city, so the council was keen to demolish it. But McDonald's still had 40 years on the lease, so it was decided that a new building would be constructed in its place.

McDonalds Coolsingel by MEI Architects and Planners

"Our task was to redesign the McDonald's and make it blend into its surroundings," explained studio founder Robert Winkel.



"Since the 1970s the McDonald's pavilion has been altered frequently. Its quality suffered as a result, with its mostly closed facades. This makes the space anonymous. We want to activate this space again."

McDonalds Coolsingel by MEI Architects and Planners
Photograph by Frank Hanswijk

Unlike the old building, which was built against the wall of a historic post office building, the new fast-food restaurant stands in the centre of the pavement to make it look more like a pavilion.

McDonalds Coolsingel by MEI Architects and Planners
Photograph by Ossip Van Duivenbode

The majority of its exterior is glazed, providing views through the building. This allows passersby to catch a glimpse of the white steel staircase that spirals up from the service area on the ground floor to the dining room upstairs.

McDonalds Coolsingel by MEI Architects and Planners
Photograph by Ossip Van Duivenbode

"The new building volume has been carefully detailed and articulated to open up views of the monumental post office behind it," said the team.

McDonalds Coolsingel by MEI Architects and Planners

"As a result, the pavilion has the most compact possible core, with glazed facades all around," the architects added. "A fully transparent lobby, with entrances on three sides, makes it seem as though the public space flows through the building."

McDonalds Coolsingel by MEI Architects and Planners

Other parts of the facade were clad in panels of gold-anodised aluminium, dotted with small heart-shaped perforations. Together, these form a pixellated image showing a crowd of people, which also continues on the inside walls.

McDonalds Coolsingel by MEI Architects and Planners

"As McDonald's is open day and night, 24/7, its appearance after dark is important," explained the team. "By day the building is inviting to shoppers, while in the evening it glows to attract the nightlife crowd."

McDonalds Coolsingel by MEI Architects and Planners

Mei Architects was also tasked with improving the environment around the building. The office's main intervention was to relocate the power boxes for utilities and traffic regulation from the street to the restaurant's rooftop.

McDonalds Coolsingel by MEI Architects and Planners

The team also created fixed outdoor seating so that diners can eat outdoors, using the same street furniture already used in some of Rotterdam's existing public spaces.

McDonalds Coolsingel by MEI Architects and Planners
The original building

Photography is by Jeroen Musch, apart from where otherwise indicated.


Project credits:

Team Mei: Robert Winkel, Menno van der Woude, Michiel van Loon, Robert Platje, Ruben Aalbersberg
Contractor: BVR Groep
Structural engineer: Adviesbureau Roelen
MEP: Sweegers & de Bruijn
Facade: Glasimpex, VPT Versteeg
Stairs: WV trappen
Fire safety: Grontmij
Interior design: NivOO3

McDonalds Coolsingel by MEI Architects and Planners
Concept diagram – click for larger image
McDonalds Coolsingel by MEI Architects and Planners
Ground floor plan – click for larger image
McDonalds Coolsingel by MEI Architects and Planners
First floor plan – click for larger image
  • I guess this is the only way to get anyone to eat there…

  • High five to McD’s for using real Herman Miller furniture!

  • J

    The faces at night looks creepy.

  • Rick

    Nice! Big Mc = best hamburger on the planet! Including its 10,000 calories!

    • Sam

      No way man! Mos burger or Byron burger kick the Big Mac’s rump!

  • Augusto Quepe

    It’s fancy and so austere. It’s not really a match with the Happy Meal. But it’s a nice building for a library maybe.

  • Chris

    No, just no! Seriously I’m not even going to bother to become an architect if this is the face that people see of our industry. It makes me so angry.

    • Fern

      What’s wrong with it? It’s beautiful, and really well thought out. If it truly makes you that angry, then it should become a motivation to study architecture to change it.

    • M. Vitruvius

      I agree, the undeserving lower class should realize that architecture is about high culture and ideals and far removed from something as mundane as having a snack.

      Oh wait, I don’t agree.

  • Toon Van Wambeke

    Too bad it is for junk food.

  • chris parrott

    Lovely place to eat sh*t.

  • nice, but…

    The architecture is all very well, but in terms of urban design the building shouldn’t even be there. Look at it obliterating the view of the old post office building; a rare pre-war building in the centre of bombarded Rotterdam. The McDonald’s is an obstacle in the street. A nicer, shinier obstacle than the previous version, but an obstacle nonetheless.

    • Dikkie Smabers

      You are 100% correct. The municipality should have renegotiate the lease with McDonald’s to finally clean up this old planning disaster at one of the most important spots in Rotterdam. But I think it is by far the most profitable McDonald’s restaurant in Rotterdam so I guess they will hold on as long as possible. It’s hard to argue with money-making.

      • Nice butt…

        Indeed, money is always the bottom line. Particularly in the Netherlands.

  • Dikkie Smabers

    The thing with this pavilion is, as mentioned by others, the location. It blocks the view to the former post office – one of the only surviving pre-war buildings in the city center – and blocks view to the wide street profile of the main boulevard of the city. No matter what kind of beauty you put here it will always have the same problems.

    Besides; the pavilion looks beautiful now but I wouldn’t be too surprised in 10-20 years time, when it will undoubtedly will be altered numerous times (as the former pavilion) we will look at it in the same negative way we looked at its predecessor.

    But hey, maybe I focus too much on the longterm. In the end this is commercial architecture which has a lifespan of 5-10 years.

    • M. Vitruvius

      That’s a nice analysis of the situation. Let’s appreciate the new pavilion for now and we’ll see what happens.

      • a little bit lazy

        “We’ll see what happens”? Not quite the attitude we’ve come to expect from Marcus Vitruvius…

  • Yousif El Helw

    The only way I’d be willing to get high cholesterol.

  • Dikkie Smabers

    Funny to see that although the architects and their diagrams claim the relocation of the power boxes they are still standing there (see photo 1 and 3).

  • Joseph Strawbridge

    Brilliant integration between the old and the new as well as balancing the needs of commercial interests against historic values.

    • ?

      I hope you’re being ironic?

  • rodrigo

    Looks more like a tourist center than a burger joint.

  • Bob Terry

    Might be a little more aesthetic with a smaller logo.

  • joaquindcn

    All very nice, but what was wrong about the original building? I like it.