a motif dreamt up in hollywood


Location | Newport Beach, CA
Size | 2,000 SF
Type | Restaurant, Renovation

The idea of a cheap burger shack on the beach is a motif dreamt up in Hollywood. But in Newport Beach, since the 1960s, this motif was real. On the corner of the Pacific Coast Highway and Orange Street was a small shack with a rusted metal roof and a gigantic window where the first generation of California surfers could order a hamburger. By 2015, California land value and a prime location on the PCH could no longer justify these under-performing businesses. When the new owner bought the property the vision was to create a contemporary hamburger stand fulfilling the site’s historical purpose but done in a bold way.


Due to site constraints and stringent Newport Beach parking regulations demolition was not feasible. If the project was a remodel, then on-site parking requirements would be waived. And given the size of the site, this was the only alternative. This started an effort to preserve some portions of the original buildings. Ultimately, the original building’s footprint and the bathroom from the restaurant were preserved. A sliver of space approximately ten feet wide existed between the building envelope and the property line allowing for a patio area. This patio area offered the opportunity


The wood wrapper is semi-transparent to preserve a customer’s connection to the PCH while providing a semi private patio on the street. While the restaurant itself is conventional stud construction, the wood wrapper is constructed of marine grade wood with a dark stain. It alternates from solid panels, constructed of built up layers of plywood, and wood slats suspended between the panels. The panels are vertically self-supporting but are tied together with a steel structure at the front patio. This structure is connected back to the main building via horizontal beams. This keeps the whole system laterally braced.


The iconographic form of the building operates figuratively but doesn’t rely on this. While being designed it was clear the project evokes easy ideas of waves and sand dunes. Being only a few hundred feet from the ocean this conceit works in an unpretentious, obvious manner. Following this theme, the project started to suggest more abstract images such as surfboards shoved in the sand. Not long ago that ritual of parking one’s board in the sand and grabbing some cheap food would have been commonplace on the PCH. This building becomes homage to that time. But ultimately, the project speaks for itself as a strong form on the highway. Newport Beach is dense and urban, flat and thick with architecture. The conglomeration and density of building means one is not reacting to any one moment. One is reacting to the density. Burger Boss is obvious and clear about what it is and what it does. It rounds the corner, holds the corner, and asks for attention. It is a perfectly California project in its lack of pretense and its oddball sense of chill.