Shape Up Or Ship Out

by Editor on May 2, 2013

Jones-Glotfelty Shipping Container House, Flagstaff AZ

The Rise of the Humble Shipping Container

Shipping containers, otherwise known as those large steel boxes used to store and transport goods across the world, are being given new life by some creative individuals. Due to their strength, durability and size, these sometimes unsightly containers can be converted into numerous different facilities. How’s that for innovative architecture?

Amin Library – Indonesia

The Amin Library, located in Batu, Indonesia, is a gorgeous structure consisting of eight brightly coloured shipping containers built on stilts and overlooking the surrounds. The library, which is free to the public, contains around 6000 books and each colour container represents a different section – red is for science and technology, yellow is for the women’s reading room, blue is for the popular fiction and entertainment section, and green signifies the main lobby.

The aim of the project is to raise the standard of living for those living in the agricultural town, and as such, also hosts a health clinic inside.

Boutique Hotel – Detroit

An aspiring entrepreneur in Detroit, Michigan, is raising money to fulfil her goal of building the city’s first boutique hotel, using discarded shipping containers. The proposed hotel, dubbed “Collision Works”, will contain 36 rooms, a community workspace and a courtyard. It will be built in Detroit’s Eastern Market neighbourhood.

Using the crowd funding site Kickstarter, Shel Kimen, the organiser of Collision Works, aims to initially build a mini-prototype of the hotel, consisting of a two-container area with a lobby, couches and free Wi-Fi, where locals and travellers alike can gather and share stories. The full-size hotel is projected to finish construction in 2014.

Housing the Homeless

Forest YMCA, a charity based in the UK, is planning to convert abandoned shipping containers into accommodation for the homeless in east London. The charity aims to use a combination of government funding and donations to pay for the containers, and will charge residents £75 per week for rent. It is hoped that the housing project will aid young people who are struggling to support themselves and cannot afford to buy property.

Urban Farms

The Urban Farm Unit, pioneered by Damien Chivalle, consists of a shipping container whose roof has been removed and replaced with a glass structure, creating a kind of greenhouse. Fresh produce can be grown inside the container, and subsequently sold to the local community. The container makes use of an aquaponic system, where plants are grown in water containing broken down fish waste (used as plant fertilizer). So far, there are three of these farms in existence, located in Berlin, Zurich and Brussels.

Shops and Restaurants

London’s Boxpark Shopping Mall consists of 60 shipping containers that have been converted into small restaurant and retail spaces. Apart from the benefits of recycling, the centre also provides an opportunity for small brands to showcase their wares due to the low rental cost. The exteriors of the containers are painted black and white, and are arranged 2 stories high and 5 rows wide.

San Francisco, meanwhile, currently plays host to Proxy, a pop-up shopping district consisting of shops, restaurants and galleries, all making use of freight containers. The manifesto of the Proxy project is “to mobilize a flexible environment of food, art, culture, and retail”. There are plans to turn the temporary retail district into a housing installation sometime in the future. With regards to big-name brands, coffee empire Starbucks opened a store consisting of 4 shipping containers in Tukwila, Washington at the end of 2011, and a Whole Foods branch in Novato, San Francisco, has utilised two containers for its bulk food section.

Following the devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011, a pop-up mall was established in the city to enable retailers to continue trading. By the end of 2012, the centre was flourishing, and was home to over 30 tenants. Although the installation is set to be dismantled, it is hoped that the sheer popularity of the mall will prolong its existence.

Endless Possibilities

These are just some of the uses people have come up with for reusing old shipping containers. They are becoming incredibly popular for use as trendy, pint-size homes, and have been converted into college dorms. Shipping containers also make excellent swimming pools, outdoor sheds and offices. Samsung, meanwhile, has sponsored solar powered shipping containers for use as school classrooms in parts of Africa. With a little creativity, innovation and a desire to minimise waste, you can create something spectacular.

About the Author

Grace Matthews is a London-based lifestyle blogger who would highly recommend Trade Ocean shipping agents for getting important cargo overseas.

photo by: Glamour Schatz

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