London’s Passion For Shipping Container Architecture Continues

Wahaca Southbank Experiment

Europe’s passion for shipping container architecture is well-noted. All across the continent, developments are springing up that showcase the best of this modern, versatile and sustainable building practice.

The UK alone has been host to a barrage of shipping container developments, perhaps most notably in the shipping container pop-up shopping district. ,Located on London’s Shoreditch High Street, the ‘Boxpark’ has been heralded as the first of its kind. This environmentally friendly shopping zone was constructed from 60 standard-sized recycled shipping containers stacked in rows of five, with each standing two storeys high.

Following the success of the Boxpark comes the equally temporary Wahaca Southbank Experiment, located on the outdoor terrace of the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre in London.

Wahaca Southbank Experiment Interior

Designed by Softroom Architects, the restaurant has been completely constructed out of eight recycled shipping containers. Shipping containers were chosen for the restaurant’s structural form for two reasons. First and foremost, designers thought the use of the industrial structures fit perfectly with the working history of the river area. Second, height restrictions put a number of limitations on the kind of structure that could be built on the terrace area.

While the structures do have an industrial feel, they have clearly been designed to provoke a sense of fun and vibrancy. Painted in bright colours ranging from turquoise to yellow, the containers juxtapose the bleak concrete backing of the Hall and the equally muted surroundings.

While the containers are recycled, giving them a far lower embodied energy count than if a new development were built from scratch, the designers have moved away from the traditional focus on the ‘green’ elements of the building and are instead focusing on playing up the structure’s vibrant character.

Wahaca Southbank Experiment Interior

Natural lighting is used to its greatest potential, with interior spaces connecting by a glazed link connection, housing stairwells and a sunny atrium.

In the UK, temporary structures made of recycled materials are a growing trend. Developments such as the Boxpark and the Wahaca Southbank Experiment show off the potential – not only economically, but also in terms of design opportunities – that this unique type of practice really has as it continues to increase in popularity.

By Jane Parkins
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