Summer Soft-Serve

Dairy Queen in the Petite Patrie. Photo by Kate McDonnell

Branded architecture is wrong in so many ways: it’s disposable, it’s a waste of space, it’s vulgar. So then why do I have such a soft spot for Dairy Queen’s little Swiss huts?

It must go back to the Dairy Queen at the corner of Park and Bérubé in Montreal. Red-roofed, fronted by a small parking lot and concrete terrace, it sits next to a row of triplexes in the shadow of an apartment tower — a country bumpkin oblivious to its own incongruousness. Every winter, the small parking lot out front is covered by a mountain of snow, until one day in March when the snow begins to melt and a neon sign is switched on — Ouvert — a harbinger of spring.

On summer nights, when the day’s humid heat settled in my living room, I would jump on my bike and ride south down Hutchison to indulge in a guilty pleasure. Hot fudge sundae, sometimes a Blizzard — these were my indulgences estivales. The pleasure is guilty because I knew I should be spending my money on handcrafted gelato from Havre aux Glaces, but instead I was forking over $3 at a corporate franchise that specializes in junk-food ice cream.

I’ve had a thing for Dairy Queen since I was a kid, when I liked the hot fudge sauce so much that my grandmother went to one of its outlets and asked to buy a cup of sauce to take back home, hoping to surprise me when I paid a visit. (The manager refused to sell it to her.) Those flavours, as simple and over-processed as they may be, are seared into my memories of summer.

In Montreal, though, I like to think that much of the attraction came from the happiness of participating in the age-old tradition of sitting in a parking lot eating soft-serve as the last purple rays of sunshine fade from the sky.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Monday July 19 2010at 09:07 am , filed under Architecture, Canada, Food, Public Space and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Response to “Summer Soft-Serve”

  • rob says:

    The thing is, branded architecture might be a bad idea from a social point of view but that doesn’t prevent some companies from having good taste. Esso used designs from reputed austrian architect Mies van der Rohe (of Westmount Square and Seagram Building fame) in their gas station designs (see the station that just closed on Isle des Soeurs or the station at the corner of pine and st-denis). Apple has also been lauded for it’s architecture. The fact is just because a big company is using architecture for its brand image doesn’t mean the architecture is bad. Urban planning and socio-economics is one domain, art and architecture is another. One shouldn’t be blamed for the problems of the other.