More recently, Ross Barney’s designs have embraced more timber alongside other building materials, including in several McDonalds’ restaurants (not a building type that has been frequently associated with wood). Think Wood spoke with her in her office, a timber-framed loft that previously housed Chicago legend Harry Weese’s offices in Chicago’s River North neighborhood.
Think Wood: What do you see as the role of wood in architecture today?
Carol Ross Barney: The idea of making CLT or engineered timbers is a new thing for Americans, but we are using it. The codes are being amended, and people want it. It’s a human material; It was living at one time. There is some sort of comfort with it; it’s psychological and emotional.
By its nature, architecture and design are trying to find a material or an assembly of materials that use the least amount of resources in the best way. This is the challenge for this generation—not just of architects, but of world citizens. If we don’t solve this, it’s over.
Let’s talk about some of your recent wood projects. Your design for the McDonald’s Chicago flagship that opened in 2018 creates a series of public spaces beneath a monumental canopy. The restaurant itself is a much smaller structure that sits beneath the trellis and features a steel and engineered wood frame and a CLT roof slab. How did you convince them to incorporate wood?
McDonald’s didn’t have any mandate. We told them we wanted to do a [LEED] Platinum building. I don’t like to talk about LEED because it’s about counting points and I’m more interested in concepts, but counting points helped us to do that building with timber. It’s the first CLT building in Chicago. But it’s not very big, so it was easy.