Surveying L.A. Pomo: Grinstein/Daniels Architects

In this series of articles, Metropolis celebrates the diverse, innovative Postmodern architecture coming out of La La Land between 1975 and the early 1990s.

Kentucky Fried Chicken Los Angeles Postmodernism
Kentucky Fried Chicken, 40 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles. Courtesy Brian Guido

In this series from our May issue, we revisit the under appreciated architectural experimentation that characterized urban development in Los Angeles from the 1970s to the early 1990s, and discover a variety of individualistic, unconventional, and radical styles—some of which occasionally even approached “fun.” Stay tuned to our homepage as we add more entries!

For the new location of his Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, owner Jack Wilke hoped to avoid the outlet’s typical form and instead pay tribute to 1950s Googie architecture. He wanted a design that would eschew the corporation’s standard false mansard roof, signage featuring a giant bucket, and boxy modern shape.

For the project, Wilke hired two rising stars within the local architecture scene: Elyse Grinstein and Jeffrey Daniels— who was also a teaching assistant to Michael Graves and Charles Moore at UCLA—of Grinstein/Daniels Architects. The young architects’ proposal was bold and radical: a theatrical intersection of colorful architectural volumes, gray and green stucco cladding, the addition of ribbed metal siding with a zinc roof, and bright-yellow balcony railings (today painted red) that together reflect a type of Gehry-esque mannerism.

The finished product, according to Daniels, is a context-conscious solution that commands the intersection it occupies: “I felt the corner lot offered a unique opportunity to simultaneously reinforce the street edge and also create a significant sculptural presence.”

The daring nature of the design carried on inside, continuing its departure from an archetypal KFC franchise by having customers place their orders on the ground floor and then wait for a dumbwaiter to deliver their food upstairs.

“We wanted to make the whole operation look as theatrical as possible,” Daniels told the Los Angeles Times in 1990. “From outside, passersby can see customers climbing the stairs to the dining room or seated at their tables eating. From inside, patrons can watch the theater of the street.”

You might also like, “Surveying L.A. Pomo: Venturi Scott Brown & Associates.”

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