April 2, 2008
Waxing Poetic About the McDonald's at Broadway and Thomas
I was walking south on Broadway the other day to look at the Woolworth Building when I was struck by the spectacle of this vernacular burger franchise. I've written about more elegant buildings, including art deco masterpieces, contemporary condo developments, and modern office buildings, so this commentary represents a departure from my regular excellent taste.
Many die-hard preservationists would find this building and what it represents as a violation of the architectural integrity of lower Manhattan. After all, the gray cinder block construction is mundane and the advertising signage excessive. It's way tacky.
I have to say I like it. I enjoy the repetition of the golden arches, the purple neon window outlines on the second floor, the abundance of red, and the display of food products featured on the side billboard that seemingly dance in the blue sky. I love the red doors, and the whole thing exudes an aesthetic connection to some stores in Chinatown. I'm impressed that they've made a banner for the dollar menu. Looking at the photo as an art object, I'm glad a woman in a red coat walked into the frame at just the right time.
I wouldn't want to live in an entire city that looked like this, but I don't advocate freezing Manhattan in a time capsule either. I support most of the efforts of the preservation societies and landmark commission, because losing the architectural heritage of New York would be a travesty on many levels. On the other hand, some preservationists seem to me too dogmatic and overly married to the status quo. There's nothing wrong with a pink building here and there, for example. And I'm not scared of just a little red.