Shipping Containers latest in Sustainable Restaurant Design

As we are all aware sustainability is a key watchword within the construction industry and one of the latest trends in sustainable building design is the clever use of shipping containers. Built from steel and durable material they are designed to be tough enough to withstand the hazards of shipping as well as the loading by crane. But what happens to the discarded containers? Answer- they can be recycled as ready made building blocks for constructing working and living spaces including restaurants. The latest Wahaca at Southbank is a first class example of this use.

This temporary restaurant, launched during the Southbank’s summer long Festival of the World, has been built from 2 rows of 4 recycled shipping containers, arranged in a 2 storey overhanging structure, allowing space for 130 diners, a bar and outdoor seating on the external terrace of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The containers have been modified with large windows overlooking the river to create a series of interlinked open spaces.

The vibrant and random colourscheme of the containers provides a contrast to the stark concrete architecture of the Southbank Centre. It is also reminiscent of the brightly painted facades of a Mexican street as well as a reminder of the working history of the River Thames.

Working closely again with Softroom Architects, we had to overcome many logistical challenges – lifting and manoeuvring the containers into place by the use of a massive crane and the complicated structural implications to enable one of the containers to be cantilevered out over the eastern entrance to provide a canopy. Inside, the front and back containers are separated by a glazed link, which floods the space with natural light. Each of the containers has then been given its own character with a mix of bespoke, new and reclaimed furniture and material and distinct lighting scenes.

Wahaca take sustainability very seriously in all their restaurants – in January they were awarded Sustainable Restaurant Group of the Year by the Sustainable Restaurant Association.