THEY have housed cafes, shops and apartments in communities across the world – now they are set to become the latest addition to the Capital’s al fresco eating-out scene.
Bosses at Pizza Express have unveiled proposals to revamp a square in the World Heritage Site – by installing specially adapted shipping containers as open-air dining rooms.
The area would be located outside the Pizza Express restaurant in Holyrood Road – next to Hemma bar and only a stone’s throw from the Scottish Parliament.
Among its potential clientele are politicians, journalists and students, as well as staff based at nearby offices belonging to Rockstar North, the firm behind the Grand Theft Auto video game series, below.
Shipping containers were famously provided as shelters and helped protect houses, vehicles and pedestrians in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake which hit Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2011.
Today, they serve as bars and futuristic luxury homes, with London preparing to welcome its second shopping mall built from the structures.
In a statement, staff at Quadrant Design, which is working on the plans for the restaurant chain, said: “Pizza Express propose to remove the existing metal structure canopies to the external area of this restaurant and improve this space by installing shipping containers that have been adapted for customer dining.
“The container doors will be opened during the day for customer use and will be locked shut at night.
“They will be painted to contrast with the existing building and to brighten up the outdoor area. The existing trees and external flooring will be kept as existing.”
The plan has been welcomed by leaders at heritage watchdog the Cockburn Association.
Director Marion Williams said: “It would be a nice character feature in an area of the city that’s becoming pretty characterless – the street frontage down there is quite bland.
“After the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, when people had lost their homes and livelihoods, containers were brought in as homes, shops and cafes, so people could quickly get back on their feet.”
She added: “What Pizza Express has there at the moment only really works on the hottest and calmest of days, and we don’t get many of those in Edinburgh.”
However, reaction on the streets of the Capital has been more mixed, with residents voicing concern over the possible impact on neighbouring businesses.
David Shandwick, 61, from Willowbrae, said: “On the one day a year when we get good weather and you want to sit outside, it would be a good idea.
“Edinburgh was quite grey and dull when I was a youth, but these public spaces open it up.”
Angela Hunter, 52, from Brunstane, was not convinced of the proposal’s merits.
She said: “Why would they need it?
“Pizza Express is huge inside. It looks small from the outside but is bigger inside.
“It also raises questions. What would Hemma’s guests think? The containers would impair their view. If you want to hide away, then it might be a good idea.”
Susan Scott, 47, from Grange, said: “I wouldn’t want to sit in a container. I think it would be OK if I was a smoker and wanted to be outside. But a canopy with heating and lamps would be a better idea.”