Images by B. Alter
Called the View Tube, this stunning cafe is made out of lime green recycled shipping containers. Perched on a hill overlooking the site of the London 2012 Olympics, it is a cafe, a look-out and a gallery space.
It is also much more: a social enterprise, serving as a focal point for the arts, environmental classes, local artists as well as an education centre for the community.
The design is ingenious. Created by Urban Space Management, it is two storeys high, with the ground floor serving as a delicious cafe. It was built in 3 months off-site: the used containers are from China, they were cleaned, fitted and then it took two days to crane them onto the site. It will stay there until 2013 at least.
The structure is completely recycled. There is motion sensor controlled lighting, and low energy light bulbs, solar controlled glass and weather compensation controlled heating.
This is the 40th container structure made by Container City in the last ten years. Their first, Trinity Buoy Wharf, was inspired by the need for low-cost artists' housing. And they have gone from strength to strength since then; including classrooms, community centres and farmers' markets.
Inside there are tables and a sofa, and lots of tables and chairs outside too for the good weather. The food is simple and genuine, with that of local producers on the menu, such as the famous smoked salmon made in the vicinity.
Upstairs is a large class room and a wonderful observation gallery. From there, the development of the whole site is visible--a forest of busy cranes, trucks and workmen.
The View Tube is a social enterprise. There is a range of teaching programmes for primary and secondary schools led by London Wildlife Trust and Field Studies Council.
Bikeworks offers guided bicycle tours of the area and the neighbouring park as well as straight rentals. It won the award for best new social enterprise in the UK in 2009. In addition to promoting the environment by their tours, they recycle and refurbish second hand bikes, provide free training to get more people riding bicycles safely and create training and employment opportunities in the cycling business for disadvantaged communities.
The gallery is a series of containers placed side by side. At night shutters pull down, just like in a store front, to keep it safe and protected. This is the venue for an ongoing series of exhibitions by local artists and community groups.
Image by ben barbour
Right now there is a collaboration of local London-based artists working in response to the Olympic Park construction site. Called Views from the Edge, it is the work of six artists and their view of the site.