Silo, a zero-waste restaurant in east London designed by studio Nina+Co

Designer Nina+Co Design
Project Silo Restaurant
Year 2019
Location London, UK
Typology Restaurant
Materials Ceramics, Glass, Textiles/Fabrics, Timber, 100% Recycled and Recyclable Plastic Panelling, Mycelium
Photo Sam A Harris

The food industry in the last 50 years has become incredibly wasteful mainly due to industrialised food systems creating so much convenience and choice. Furthermore, the culture that this food system has allowed to breed is one with unnatural expectations and an unhealthy appetite for perfection. That’s not to mention the packaging waste, which is, of course, a phenomenal strain on the environment, our economy and resources. The challenge at the zero-waste fine dining restaurant ‘Silo’ is to make consistently brilliant food without generating any waste. When it first opened, Silo was the UK’s first zero waste fine dining restaurant if not the world’s first zero waste fine dining restaurant.

Silo's, Douglas McMaster's manifesto states; 'in a closed loop system, there is no such thing as a by-product, just another product'. Nina+Co Design were tasked to design, source and locate materials of zero-waste, either grown-to-measure or 100% recycled and recyclable for the refurbishment. The materials selected needed not only to be sustainably conscious, but conform to building standards, be robust to meet the demands of a restaurant setting and luxurious in aesthetic. Smile Plastics supplied 100% recycled and recyclable plastic panels for the bar countertop in Grey Mist, dining tabletops in Charcoal and chopping boards in Black Dapple.

Other materials included; ribbed up-cycled 100% chrome free leather for the anterior of the bar from Buxkin, 100% pure cork sustainable flooring by Corka from Colour Flooring, bespoke grown-to-measure mycelium seating and tables by Bio Grown, vegetarian Sheep wool throws as stool toppers by Baa Made, seaweed lampshades harvested and made by Ty Syml, Wabi-Sabi service station, seating and hostess station crafted by Jan Hendzel using sustainably sourced English Ash FSC accredited and the cloakroom wardrobe in Fibracolour by Finsa.

The colour scheme had to be sympathetic to the restrictions of what materials were available, often natural and unprocessed. Naturally occurring variations and discrepancies had to be designed into the aesthetic, with some outcomes being unknown until delivered to site. The natural elements dictated and influenced many of the lead times of getting materials to site. The breadth of material properties and performance in singular pieces of furniture demanded rigorous design and engineering. 

Production issues occurred in the material properties of mycelium for successful growth on a substrate of spent grains from the existing location residents, Crate Brewery. Growth did not occur successfully for a feasible product.

The repurposing of materials for creative implementation was central to every material selection in this project. Each material supplier, craftsperson and fabricator were instrumental to the design intervention. Jan Hendzel handcrafted tables from FSC English Ash, 100% recycled plastic and sustainable cork. The cocktail lounge furniture was grown-to-measure from mycelium by Bio Grown, lampshades from sustainable seaweed harvesting by Ty Syml. The bar gave a new lease of life to discarded medical plastic packaging and leather waste from the shoe industry by Smile Plastics and Buxkin respectively.