Over the past fifty years, shipping containers have transformed business and trade across the world. These simple and ubiquitous steel boxes, technically called “intermodal containers,” are designed for the safe and efficient movement of goods from ships to rail cars to trucks. And in all, the way containerization literally changed the world makes for a pretty fascinating story in itself.
There are now more than 18 million containers in the world that carry every possible kind of cargo.
BUT, given trade on this scale, abandoned boxes now litter many cities across the globe. At least 700,000 containers sit abandoned in the US alone (the logical result of imports outnumbering exports). Thankfully, they’re exceptionally durable and make highly versatile spaces for living and working.
The idea is no longer a new one, but many enterprising builders have found ways to continue re-engineering these standardized boxes — cutting and slicing and remolding them into incredible buildings.
Here’s a selection of our favorite container structures, in no particular order.
Tempohousing, Student Housing – Amsterdam, Holland
This student housing project in Holland was designed to serve the student community. Modular home manufacturer Tempohousing designed this complex, and has since designed a number of super-efficient buildings across the world.
View Tube, Container Cafe – London, UK
View Tube is a cafe and gallery space that is green both in color and design. It opened shortly before the London 2012 Olympics and serves as a cafe, learning space for young students, and gallery for local artists. It’s only guaranteed to be around through the end of 2013, so check it out!
Dorm, Université du Havre – Le Havre, France
The Box Office, 3-Story Office Building – Providence, Rhode Island
The Box Office features a Lego-like design with a dozen modified containers. The building’s developer, Peter Case, explains in this article that containers’ air-tight design make ventilation far more efficient and affordable than traditional buildings.
Taj Malodge, Unbelievable Container Cabin/Home in the Woods – Somewhere in the US
We’ve come across photos of this incredible home more than once, but don’t have much more information than what the owner’s website offers– which is a must-see. Construction of this two-container home was well documented in photos from start to finish. The amount of DIY design and planning that went into this space is spectacular. It’s designed to operate entirely off-the-grid, which is an accomplishment all to itself.
Container City, Home Studios, London, UK
Container City was designed and constructed by Urban Space Management in the revitalized Docklands area of London. Much like the Box Office above, its developers used shipping container components to create highly customized living and work spaces, rather than using one container per unit.