Food and water

Since Vancouver is the country’s largest West Coast port, various vessels are as much a part of its scenery as are the coastal waters and surrounding mountains. Even so, a uniquely designed craft moored at the False Creek Yacht Club this past August and September garnered more than a little attention.

The structure, dubbed The Plastic Dining Room, was the brainchild of Shannon Ronalds, co-founder and CEO of the School of Fish Foundation, a non-profit organization working to create a positive change in the seafood industry by educating chefs around the world about sustainable seafood. “The dining room was built as a way to raise enough income to get the program going and to create some buzz to raise further funds from donors,” says Ronalds. Expanding on the environmental aspects of the foundation’s goals, Ronalds and his team hit on the idea of constructing a floating dining room supported by recycled bottles. Matt Kirk-Buss of Loki Ocean reworked Ronalds’ preliminary design into something that would float.

The 12-by-20-foot Plastic Dining Room is essentially a raft made from 1,700 recycled two-litre plastic bottles. Kirk-Buss fashioned a framework using donated wood reclaimed from beetle-damaged forests in Northern B.C. Plywood was laid underneath, and the bottles (arranged in rows with their cap end straight up) filled the 12-by-3-foot voids. A tongue-and-groove pine floor keeps the bottles from escaping, though diners can view the arrangement through a Plexiglas panel inserted in the floor under the dining table.

Mike Lis of Goodweather Design used B.C. cedar for the superstructure. Panels of 3/8-inch Plexiglas cover the lower portion of the walls, with the upper portion left open to the elements. Two full-sized wine barrels positioned at each end provide handy serving stations and double as much-needed ballasts. The chairs were donated by a local rental outfit, the chandelier by a local shop and the dining room table was taken from Ronalds’ own home. All food is prepared at nearby C Restaurant (located just off the wharf from where the room is moored).

“From the minute we put [the dining room] on the water, we had several offers from people wanting to buy it,” says Ronalds. “And then, within days, a restaurant in London enquired about having us set up the dining room there.” From a sustainability point of view — and an economic one — it made good sense to keep using the original structure, on a possible tour of cities, instead of building a new one at the end of each engagement. Packing the “room” for transport is easy, as the roof and beams can be dismantled. “The shipper is musing with the idea of putting the ‘room’ in an open-sided platform on top of a load,” says Ronalds.

However it travels, the world’s first Plastic Dining Room is scheduled to appear in Auckland, New Zealand, this winter, and in London, once the weather there is better suited for an open-sided floating dining room. CI