Starbucks Shipping Container Building Concept Store

Starbucks has long built its reputation for creating an ambience conducive to coffee rituals. The store is recognizable with its dark wood and plush chairs and glass panels, but their new look may as well make them eco-conscious and artsy entrepreneurs more than just expert coffee blenders.

Starbucks shipping container building concept store in Tukwila, a Seattle suburb, is the first of its kind. A departure from their usual set-up and ambience, the new Starbucks look is minimalist and green. The same freight containers that were used to export and import coffee beans around the world are now being repurposed as walk-up stores and drive-throughs. Starbucks management says that they were inspired to actualize this novel set-up in their desire to keep their post-consumer items out of the waste stream.

Apparently, Starbucks is experimenting with a new blend that has nothing to do with their specialty coffee. The mixture of spartan elements, energy efficient building design and green sensibility is a delightful surprise to their customer base who were used to the Starbucks archetype of plush chair and dark wood. This move is not only seen as Starbucks’ move to change its image, but more important, as a realization of their desire to contribute more to environmental awareness and less to post-consumer waste.


Starbucks however is somewhat a latecomer to this type of  “cargotecture” that utilizes decommissioned shipping containers as something more than just salvaged steel. In 2009, Puma, a recognizable name-brand in sports apparel, put up a three-story “container city” made of 24 refurbished shipping containers on Fan Pier in Boston. Puma’s three-level steel monolith was set up as a pit stop for sailing crews who participated in a nine-month round-the-world yachting competition. Inside, there are very few hints that Puma City is made of 40-foot shipping containers creatively arranged together to make a retail store and event space.

More than just a store where the public can buy Puma apparel, Puma City was also the onsite dressing quarter of the yachting crews and a party space at night. Before their arrival in Boston, Puma City was set-up in Alicante, Spain and thereafter moved to South Africa.

Mobility is certainly a huge advantage for using end-of-life shipping containers as building structures. In the case of Starbucks, there is very little indication that they will be leaving Tukwila soon. Should the Starbucks shipping container building concept store not become a local attraction, they can easily pack up gear and relocate to another suburb with perhaps heavier customer traffic. Considering they are sporting a new look, it might as well be that they will expand their customer base even bigger as they attract a new breed of coffee drinkers who are not only into aroma but also art.