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McDonald's Chicago Flagship

Ross Barney Architects

Chicago, United States

August 2018


Design Team: Carol Ross Barney, FAIA, Misa Inoue, ASLA, Chantelle Brewer, AIA, Jason Vogel, Ryan Gann, Shinya Uehara, Youngjae Lee, Yifan Liang, AIA, Amy Chun, Ryan Docken, Ryan Giblin, Mordecai Scheckter.


Landini Associates-Interior Design Concept; Goodfriend Magruder Structure; Dickerson Electrical Engineers and WCW Engineers MEPFP Engineer; Schuler Shook, Lighting


McDonald's Corporation, Maximiliano Carmona, AIA, Global Director of Design


Kendall McCaugherty, Hall+Merrick Photographers


McDonald’s, wanted to build a flagship restaurant that embodied their corporate commitment to environmental stewardship while creating a place where people can eat, drink, and meet.

It is the first quick service restaurant to achieve LEED Platinum certification.

The most sustainable building is one that already exists so the design team began by studying the environmental and economic value of retaining the existing kitchen and basement. In the process of re-cladding existing walls, thermal value was improved significantly to enhance building performance. Energy efficient building systems and kitchen equipment reduce the energy consumption of the building. Renewable on site solar provides approximately 60% of the reduced load.


McDonald’s Chicago flagship restaurant is located on a full city block in Chicago’s dense River North. The neighborhood is changing from commercial to residential and lacks green space. There are no parks or open green space within a 1⁄3-mile radius of the site. The existing restaurant was surrounded with vehicular circulation and parking, creating tenuous pedestrian crossings.

The new design seizes the opportunity to create a restaurant in a park, providing needed green space in the neighborhood and a friendlier environment for customers

A solar pergola creates shade in the new park and scales the restaurant with neighboring buildings. Beneath this “big roof,” indoor dining areas seamlessly connect to the outside. A garden of birch trees is suspended over the dining room and a roof top garden of edible plants is visible from the dining room. The rooftop farm Is planted with apple trees, arugula, broccoli, chives, kale, swiss chard, and carrots, the produce harvested is donated to the local Ronald McDonald House.


The flagship radically deviates from the historic prototype and is generating valuable lessons that can be scaled to the expansive McDonald’s portfolio - improving communities around the world. The prioritization of customer and community amenities resulted in a 72% increase in pedestrian focused area on the site. A rebalancing of the site gives pedestrians the right-of-way through a shared streets approach, specifically at the drive thru exit points.

Composed of 1,062 solar panels, the “pergola” generates approximately 59% of the building’s overall electrical energy needs. Data show the solar panels consistently out-performing modeled estimates. This level of success is a lesson in urban power generation in climates with variable sun exposure.

With a building design rooted in environmental storytelling, the restaurant utilizes a series of prominent strategies to promote health and wellness. The hanging garden provides calming views to a natural sanctuary. Suspended "tapestries" of plants improve indoor air quality, enrich happiness, and provide acoustic value.

The use of both cross laminated timber (CLT) and glued laminated timber (glulam) beams showcases the value of products with low embodied energy and carbon. Trees provide an abundant and renewable source of material.

Additionally, wood has been shown to contribute meaningful benefits to the health and well-being of users. The McDonald’s global flagship is the first commercial building to use CLT in Chicago.

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