Shipping container homes: inspiring examples


Used shipping containers are used to build offices, houses, shopping centers and stadiums

Apartment building of 140 cargo containers, project of LOT-EK studio in Johannesburg (South Africa).

Quick-assembled houses from shipping containers are a new trend in modern architecture. One of the most recent examples is an apartment building designed by LOT-EK in Johannesburg, South Africa. The seven-storey building consists of 140 old transport boxes, interconnected by walkways, metal stairs and elevators. Apartments area: from 28 to 56 sq. M.

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And in India they are even going to build a whole skyscraper! CRG Architects recently proposed a project for the Containerscraper, a 5,000-person high-rise building. It is proposed to accommodate homeless people from the slums of Mumbai.

Containerscraper skyscraper designed by CRG Architects

Shipping containers appeared in the late 1930s, when trucker Malcolm McLean realized that it was easier, faster and cheaper to ship goods this way than in boxes. (Subsequently, McLean founded the Maersk holding – one of the largest freight companies in the world).

Floating villa in France, Josué Gillet

For a long time, old containers were sent for scrap. In the 1960s, they began to be used as kiosks and temporary exhibition pavilions. And since the late 1980s, it has been used in the construction of budget housing. In 1987, the first patent was obtained for such a “living cell” – how the container house was qualified in the document.

House in Brooklyn designed by LOT-EK

The new “building material” reached its peak of popularity in the early 2000s. The pioneer of cargo architecture, as this trend began to be called, was the American architect Adam Kalkin, who founded a whole architectural bureau with the speaking name of Industrial zombie. Adam and his partner, architect Matthew Quilty, associate themselves with zombies, because they breathe new life into their old, forgotten, dead.

Bunny Lane House, Adam Kalkin

Freight containers are used by architects throughout America, as well as in Europe, Africa and Australia. The bureau offers exhibition booths, shops on wheels and several typical housing units, from a one-room apartment to a modernist villa. To erect a building, Industrial zombie only needs a concrete foundation and two to a dozen containers.

Private house from shipping containers, Adam Kalkin

Containers are mainly used for low-cost housing. Adam believes that this stereotype can be overcome. So, in 2013, he built a modern villa in Maine, which has become a reference example of cargo architecture. 12 containers were used to create the mansion. The building is equipped with all the necessary communications, and inside it looks super-avant-garde.

In 2007, Culkin even brought his Push Button House concept, a lodging container, to the Venice Biennale. The walls of the structure were folded back, showing the bed and dining set fixed on them.

Push Button House, Adam Kalkin

The main competitor of Industrial zombie is the American architect Peter DeMaria. He does not shock the audience, but he also seeks to break the stereotype of “containers – architecture for the poor”. Peter develops the technical capabilities of such a design – in 2016, his Redondo Beach House in Southern California, built from containers, was certified for increased seismic resistance.

Redondo Beach House in Southern California, Peter DeMaria

The simplest 45 container house sq. m. (like a Moscow “odnushka”) can be bought for $ 23,000. The American company Mods International put their production on stream. And the most unusual one is worth more than a million – this is the Joshua Tree Residence, which will appear in California at the end of this year.

Joshua Tree Residence in the California desert designed by James Whitaker Joshua Tree Residence in the California desert designed by James Whitaker

The structure, which looks like a hedgehog from the side, occupies 640 sq. Its author, British architect James Whitaker, worked according to a well-known scheme – he built the first such “ruffy” house out of containers seven years ago in Germany. It houses an advertising agency.

Joshua Tree Residence, James Whitaker Joshua Tree Residence, James Whitaker

Containers are widely used in the construction of student campuses, offices and shops. In China, they are even used for municipal buildings: in 2016, in the Shanxi province in the north of the country, such an office was built for the organization China's People's Architecture.

Container Stack Pavilion in China by People's Architecture Office

Student residences and container-type research laboratories have appeared in Le Havre (project Cattani Architects, 2010) and near New York. It took MB Architecture only one day to build a media laboratory for Bard College in the Hudson Valley!

Bard College Media Laboratory by MB Architecture

One of the main advantages of cargo architecture is its mobility. For example, British entrepreneur Roger Wade is building a new type of shopping center out of containers. The first “container mall” Boxpark Shoreditch appeared in east London seven years ago. There were shops and restaurants inside it. A shopping complex based on the principle of a temporary pop-up store – few believed that this idea would pay off. But now there are already a great many such projects. Wyad does not plan to stop there.

Boxpark Shoreditch, London

Architects propose to make collapsible even stadiums. The Spanish bureau Fenwick Iribarren Architects proposed such a mobile project for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which will be held in Qatar – to build a cargo stadium of 1000 containers, and then dismantle and put it somewhere else where there is a need for such a site. Architects see a great future for containers. Still: fast, cheap and practical!

Qatar Stadium, Fenwick Iribarren Architects Qatar Stadium by Fenwick Iribarren Architects

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