340 N. Western Avenue in Koreatown: The Postmodern KFC

340 N. Western Avenue in Koreatown: The Postmodern KFC

The The Postmodern KFC at 340 N. Western Avenue in Koreatown. Get it? It's a chicken and a bucket!

Conceived at the tail end of the radical eighties by architect Jeffrey Daniels and completed in 1990, this KFC franchise epitomizes the blocky, colorful, asymmetrical, and never subtle building-as-symbol style that typified postmodernist architecture twenty years ago. With fin-like windows for wings, and a red roof for the rooster's comb, the chicken's "head" sports the weirdly mounted face of the colonel, with his kindly smirk. It's as if he's raising his knowing brow down at potential patrons and saying, "Come on in. You're gonna love eating my delectable chicken inside this giant chicken (that's also a bucket)."

Seemingly six stories tall, the towering bird perches with its wings open, about to take flight over the city. It stood out more starkly in the nineties, when K-town was a semi-rundown neighborhood of gray buildings. But twenty years on, amongst the sensory overload of Koreatown's most bustling commercial corridor on Western avenue (near Third Street), it almost fades into the background with all the other vibrant signs, video billboards and over-the-top storefronts.

But don't blame Daniels for the bucket building; blame the world-famous Frank O. Gehry, who Daniels worked for from 1978 to 1980. At Gehry's office, Daniels was steeped in similarly blocky, colorful design projects like the Loyola Law School's Fritz B. Burns Academic Center, with its zigzagging staircase puncturing the grid-shaped, electric-yellow façade. (It's often forgotten that before Gehry was into titanium and stainless steel, he was into turquoise, yellow and hot pink). Institutional buildings like schools, however, usually catch a break when it comes to unconventional architecture. Fast food restaurants, on the other hand, can come off looking gimmicky. They're already colorful, loud and built to stand out on a busy street. The Po-Mo KFC does much the same thing -- but then again there aren't many fast food spots where you can eat lunch sitting in a metaphorical bird's ass.

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