Far from London’s trendy Southbank, in the heart of Mexico, there’s a place called Oaxaca.

The streets there are busy with wheeling and dealing, and the walls are brandished with colourful murals that speak loudly to the history and politics of the region.


The name of this vibrant place is pronounced ‘Wahaca’, and it is the inspiration behind a popular Mexican-themed restaurant chain from British Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers.

Wahaca, By Softroom London, Photograph:josephburns.ie

At the Southbank outpost of the Wahaca Empire, shipping containers encapsulate the undeniable cool of Oaxacan art, food and Indigenous mythology.


Inspired by the bold colours and textures of the cantinas found at Oaxacan markets, the Southbank design recalls the vibrancy and energy of Mexican street life.


Conceived by architecture firm Softroom, the building is a transportable structure that made of eight stacked recycled shipping containers.

The raw, industrial finish of the cargo containers is emphasised in both the exterior and interior design of the eatery.


To create a sense of warmth and space, the designers opened up the containers via a series of walkways, windows and terraces, letting plenty of natural light enter the building.


Each container has been painted in one of several vibrant colours, each chosen to evoke the character of Mexico.


Vivid murals adorn the façades while the interiors of the converted shipping containers are decorated with a combination of bespoke lighting designs, new and reclaimed furniture.


Playfully dubbed the Southbank Experiment, the Wahaca Southbank shipping container restaurant was designed in 2011 as a pop-up space, where new recipes could be trialled before being added to the regular menu at other locations.


The business proved so popular with the locals that it is still standing.