McDonald's Headquarters

Designed by: Studio O+A and IA Interior Architects
For client: Floor area: 44593.00 M² Year of completion: 2018
Submitted for:

About the Project

When a company as rooted in popular culture as McDonald’s moves its headquarters after 47 years, it’s not just a momentous business decision—it’s a statement about the way we live our lives. Changes in our attitudes toward food, work and leisure all contributed to McDonald’s move from the campus at Oak Brook to a nine-story building in Chicago’s West Loop. To make the move an architectural event worthy of its business impact, McDonald’s hired IA Interior Architects and Studio O+A to turn a lean, light-infused, shell into a celebration of the company’s spirit. The diversity of workstyles represented here mirrors McDonald’s large embrace and illustrates the power of place to bring people together. Classic work areas and meeting rooms interact with spaces that have the look and feel of hospitality venues. Every architectural gesture functions on its own and in partnership with the spaces around it. The test kitchen at Hamburger University, for example, captures the artistry of engineering, while one floor below Jessica Stockholder’s massive sculpture made of kitchen hardware acknowledges the engineering essential to public art. Together the two spaces play variations on McDonald’s assertion that “all good things come from the kitchen.” Similarly, a multi-directional staircase in the building’s central atrium provides a striking focal point, but also symbolizes the M.C. Escher-esque sensation of moving forward in many directions at once.

What’s unique about it

We believe McDonald’s West Loop office exemplifies a new creativity increasingly prevalent in workplace design . Perhaps nowhere is that creativity more in evidence than in the graphic design strategy O+A devised for McDonald’s. Throughout the office graphic design plays multiple roles—mood setter, brand signifier, historic record and storyteller. In that sense the West Loop HQ is a kind of architectural summation of all things McDonald’s. Each space celebrates the energy of the company and places it in a context both of humble origins and global impact. One challenge on this project was the sheer volume of source material and the need to include as much of it as possible in telling McDonald’s story. This company’s long journey from a single hamburger drive-in in San Bernardino, California to a globally recognized brand almost 80 years later encompassed multiple through-lines of cultural change. Our challenge was to weave them into a single narrative that captured both the simplicity of McDonald’s origins and the complexity of its current operations. We wanted to communicate McDonald’s diversity and the strength of its commitment to family and community. And we wanted to do so in ways that were playful, but meaningful; original, but grounded in the traditions of classic McDonald’s design. Pulling a story this big into a coherent environmental graphics package was a challenge both to our visual imagination and to our ability to organize information.

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