It’s very seldom that my Google-Fu is so utterly defeated, that I’ve been reduced to this, but I need your help, gentle reader. 

Does anyone remember the period of fast food architecture from the late 1980s to early to mid 1990s when nearly all fast food restaurants looked like greenhouses, with huge, sloping glass windows that filled them with light? They were wonderfully warm and futuristic. I’ve been trying to find images of the “greenhouse” era of fast food restaurants, easily the high point of fast food architecture, even including the mid-century designs. It was the most elegant era in fast food architecture ever, and it’s like nobody realized it happened. I can’t find any images to illustrate what I mean and boy, have I looked. Anyone with images would be appreciated.

Like all great American art, we created something wonderful, then ignored it and thought it had no value because it was closely tied to commerce and “low class culture,” and didn’t even realize we did it at all (there’s a reason “film noir” is a French term – they noticed this stuff wasn’t “junk” but a genre unto itself long after the genre ceased to exist). 

User @featherwurm had a strategy I hadn’t considered: use Google Street View and set it to as far back as possible, when a lot of the “greenhouse” fast food restaurants hadn’t remodeled yet. With it, he found an image of a San Diego Wendy’s from 2010. Not the most spectacular example of this kind of architecture, but good to illustrate what I mean by “greenhouse” Wendy’s. Thank you, @featherwurm!

A lot of the “greenhouse” fast food restaurants remodeled in the past 10 years. Smashed in, like they were trash and the owners probably didn’t think anything of it at all. It’s really a tragedy for a style to appear, then totally disappear and nobody noticed or cared. 

User @sweetsonofabitch suggested using the search terms “solarium” and “sunroom” to find these types of fast food architecture structures. This is great because this is a phenomenally slippery search term. With that, I was able to find these:

It’s also very nice to finally have a term to use to describe this instead of “greenhouse fast food.” “Solarium design” sounds like an article in an architectural magazine, although “Sunroom” sounds more…Yankee, and less pretentious, which fits. 

When I started searching sunroom, a fascinating thing happened. I kept on finding upscale restaurants that, as a part of their architecture, use Solarium design or have sunrooms. This isn’t the first time some element of “low culture” is repackaged as expensive haute couture.