Over the past several years, a growing number of architects have found a highly sustainable, affordable and practical building solution with previously used shipping containers. As an eco-friendly and boldly geometric design strategy, these architects stack and reconfigure containers in every possible way: placing them on top of one another, side-by-side, and in LEGO-like combinations to create multi-person living spaces, studios, offices and business storefronts.
Green building and living practices are often fundamental in this “cargotecture” movement. Solar panels deliver electricity, while purposefully placed windows and sliding glass doors offer natural circulation throughout these open-ended spaces. These repurposed containers are usually sourced from massive, empty stacks of disused containers in seaside ports and landfills all over the world.
Just outside Shanghai, China, Tony’s Farm grows fruits and vegetables and also happens to be one of the biggest tourist destinations outside the major Chinese metropolis. This structure built from 78 used shipping containers houses a a gift shop, office space, reception area, and the lobby for an on-site shipping container hotel. As part of the second phase of the project, the hotel hasn’t been built yet and will not be attached to the main building, but will house visitors in detached containers around the farm.
SnackBOX, a fold up food vendor, has taken up residency in the middle of Times Square. This repurposed shipping container houses pull-outs that reveal pastry cases as well as a cash register. At the end of the night when Snackbox closes, the displays are pulled in and the awnings folded down to return the storage container to it’s orginal outward appearance. The food isn’t bad either! NYC Yelp reviewers describe the hot dogs as “the best in town.”
LA-based retailer Aether recently designed its San Francisco store front around three shipping containers. The performance-wear company that, “by utilizing technical fabrics in a more sophisticated form, offer performance sportswear with a refined modern aesthetic,” has included a motorized rack salvaged from an old dry cleaners. This rotating rack travels the length of the third container and travels down to the first floor as a means to easily store and sort through inventory. The space might be smaller than other storefronts in San Fran, but it certainly doesn’t lose any marketability or space for customers to browse.
The Hall & Woodhouse Bar & Restaurant resides in Portishead, UK. This shipping container structure, built from 28 reconfigured containers, is an excellent example of more complex cargotecture design. Despite its heftier $3 million price tag, it is a sight of cargotectural beauty. Its multi-tiered and transparent design makes the structure inviting, functional and eye-catching.
“Cargo-tects” across the globe are even creating luxury-appointed boxes as functional additions to homes, ranches and vacation spots. The Sauna Box, designed in Canada and requiring few external modifications to the steel container, is a working sauna. It features a cedar-plank sauna, MP3 player dock, electric guitar plug-in and is powered entirely by a solar panel and a wood-burning stove.