Some find it brilliant, others think it marks the end of Brixton as a cool place. The graffiti-inspired new interior of a McDonald’s restaurant in the South London neighborhood offers plenty of food for debate.
After a month-long refurbishment, the restaurant in Brixton re-opened two weeks ago. The revamped interior very much reminds of a shady back alley, with lamps and walls decorated with (fake) graffiti tags. The designers obviously wanted to make the look-and-feel of the place reflect the ‘edgy’ side of this gentrifying neighborhood. (Nevertheless, other McDonald’s restaurants, like in Dublin, have been refurbished the same way.) Now “you can feel as though you’re eating your Big Mac at a skate park,” writes Jen Mills.
Angry locals have described the interior as offensive and tasteless, because it’s stereotyping the neighborhood, and seen as “another misguided attempt by suits to identify with ‘edgy’ Brixton.” Almost a year ago the neighborhood was hit by protests against the rapid gentrification and its consequences, like rising rents and expensive shops. Now that a large multinational like McDonald’s is embracing the ‘coolness’ of the area, really feels like it’s over with Brixton.
The commodification of street culture and other aspects of ‘urban cool’ has been going on for a while, and hipster culture has spread to every corner of the earth. But this interior tells us something new. By adopting the visual culture of a neighborhood in a very early, raw stage of gentrification, the fast food corporation shows that the mainstream’s tolerance for ‘cool’ is changing. A McDonald’s restaurant with graffiti art on its walls was cool five years ago but not anymore, while a restaurant covered in tags was too trashy back in 2011 but now very ‘edgy’.