Shipping Container architecture, also known as “Cargotecture” or “Arkitaner” is a type of architecture that uses steel intermodal containers as a major structural element due to its inherent strength, relatively cheap, and eco-friendly behavior.

The 21st Century is all about experimenting with non-conventional techniques in architecture that aims to bring sustainability, affordability, and quick execution. Multiple materials are being experimented and reused like bamboo, paper tubes, shipping containers, vegetable fibers, etc. Let us explore one such element that is not only reused but also experimented in all the types of architecture. Shipping Container architecture, also known as “Cargotecture” or “Arkitaner” is a type of architecture that uses steel intermodal containers as a major structural element due to its inherent strength, relatively cheap, and eco-friendly behavior compared to the convention building materials like brick and cement. This article discusses the advantages and further possibilities of using shipping containers by exploring some examples of conceptual as well as executed projects.

In the 1950s, Malcolm McLean revolutionized the transport industry by developing Shipping Containers. These containers were convenient, efficient, and structurally sound which also proves to be of great qualities to act as building materials. During the Vietnam war, these containers were used to ship troops and bases abroad. The military often used shipping containers as emergency shelters as they acted as a shield of protection and safety due to its stacking properties. This idea was patented in 1987 by Phillip C. Clark for converting one or more steel shipping containers into a habitable building at a building site. The diagrams and information contained within the documentation of the patent appear to lay the groundwork for many current shipping container architectural ideas. Later, these containers have been integrated into commercial as well as residential structures in Europe and Asia as well. It is quite evident that these containers have emerged as a quick solution during emergencies to cater to the need of the population with affordability and sustainability. There are thousands of shipping containers lying on the dock because it is really expensive to ship them back and hence these containers are used to construct affordable housing, student dormitory, schools, studios, emergency shelters, etc. 

Let us have a look at different types of executed examples of Shipping Container Architecture.

Box Office, Rhode Island, USA

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©Distill Studio

This office building is built with 32 shipping containers with 12 offices having an approximate area ranging between 60sq.m to 240 sq.m. It stands out with bright colors on the exterior and high-performance insulation on the interior along with cantilevered conference rooms.

Cite A Docks – Le Havre, France

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©Cattani Architects

Cite A Docks is a 4 story student housing project designed by Cattani Architects. This housing is completely made out of shipping containers having 100 apartments with 24sq.m of the area each including a bathroom and kitchen.

Bayside Marina Hotel, Japan

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©Yasutaka Yoshimura architects
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©Yasutaka Yoshimura architects

This huge range of stackable shipping containers serves as a hotel in Yokohama Japan. This unconventional structure is designed by Yasutaka Yoshimura Architects having randomly placed cottages overlooking the Tokyo Bay. Each of these cottages comprises two vertically stacked containers placed linearly. 

Dunraven School Sports Hall, London

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©Scabal

The Scabal designed this brilliant sports hall having 1225 Sqm of an area that was built in 3 months and assembled in just 3 days. The hall has four courts, a gallery, offices and changing rooms. It has three walls built from upcycled containers stacked vertically on one another to have a full-height gym, and a fourth wall built from translucent polycarbonate. 

Common Ground, Seoul, South Korea

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©Urbantainer

Common Ground is a 3 story structure serving as the world’s largest shopping mall erected entirely from shipping containers designed by a local firm called Urbantianer. It is made up of 200 large modular containers having 5300 Sqm with 70 stores, 20 restaurants, and a rooftop terrace painted in bright blue.

Café Infinity, India

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©RJDL
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©RJDL

The striking infinity shaped café is designed by RJDL to act as a recreational space for Greater Noida’s dental college in India. The structure is made of recycled containers to create a sustainable yet unconventional structure with bright orange color on the exterior and neutrals in the interior. The structure is positioned in the center around two courtyards that consists of two café outlets in the front with two dynamic staircases. 

Now, let us have a look at some thoughtful concepts on Cargotecture.

Mumbai Slums reimagined by DIOINNO Architecture PLLC

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©DIOINNO Architecture PLLC
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©DIOINNO Architecture PLLC

Kiosks reimagine by NL Architects in Seoul

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©NL Architects
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©NL Architects
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Need is the Mother of Invention – Pandemic Series with Cargotecture.

  1. In Australia, University of Technology, Sydney designed a COVID testing center in a shipping container. 
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©dezeen

Grimshaw Architects, Newyork designed a COVID testing center for a healthcare company called Osang.

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CURA, an intensive care unit is designed by Italian Architects called Carlo Ratti and Italo Rota in Turin

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Links to some Mind-Blowing projects

https://www.contemporist.com/house-made-from-shipping-containers-was-designed-for-a-family-in-new-york/

https://www.archdaily.com/919593/uk-artist-david-mach-designs-sculptural-building-from-shipping-containers

https://www.pinterest.com/archdaily/shipping-container-architecture/

https://www.architecturaldigest.com/gallery/container-architecture-slideshow

You can build your own: Some Helpful videos

The Modern Home Project – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnoUKype0fVkWtCleYWBT1w 

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shipping_container_architecture

https://www.archdaily.com/160892/the-pros-and-cons-of-cargo-container-architecture

https://www.arch2o.com/applications-shipping-container-architecture/

http://boxmanstudios.com/blog/industry-knowledge/a-short-history-of-shipping-container-architecture/

Author

Jhanavi is an architecture graduate from Nirma University in 2019 with the best awarded Research Thesis on Architectural Response to Waterfronts. Jhanavi is an Associate Architect at JCE, Ahmedabad and also recipient of research grant for the research of “Women in Architecture” from EDRC. She is a keen observer, who loves to translate the minute details into words.

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