Cargotecture in pictures

Some designers and architects are exploring the potential of re-purposed shipping containers, but critics say they are not necessarily sustainable or cost-effective.

We think these examples of recycled containers are pretty cool.  What do you think?

  1. Boxpark, London

Together, Boxpark Shoreditch and Boxpark Croydon are built from more than 130 former shipping containers. Boxpark founder and CEO Roger Wade believes it’s fitting such containers are used in his pop-up malls given their role in enabling global trade. Oliver Wainwright, the Guardian’s architecture and design critic, however, wrote in 2011: “Boxpark represents the latest step in the appropriation of the aesthetic of informal, provisional economies by big business.”

2.Library of Things, London

Located in two shipping containers in south London’s West Norwood, the Library of Things enables users to borrow everything from a drill to a gazebo on a pay-as-you-borrow basis. “We started looking at shipping containers because of the extortionate property prices in London,” says operations director Rebecca Trevalyan. “Now we’d choose a shipping container anyway because they’re fun, can be easily adapted, fit neatly in underused carparks or building sites – and we can pick them up and transport them elsewhere if we want to.”

3.Downtown Container Park, Los Angeles

This shopping venue uses 78 containers repurposed by the International Port Management Enterprise, whose other projects include a shipping container high school and a portable art gallery. Repurposing containers can put some of those which go out of service to use. However, architect Mark Hogan challenges the assumption that their incorporation in architecture is good for the environment, not least because of the resources required to upcycle them. He adds that used containers need to be thoroughly cleaned in case they have transported anything toxic.

4. Container Stack Pavillion – Dongshan China

The 12 shipping containers that make up this office have been piled up and sliced to create a light-filled structure with double height ceilings in the centre and a spacious roof terrace. The People’s Architecture Office, designers of the Pavilion, says the structure can be disassembled and relocated, although architect and professor Lloyd Alter questions how easily: “There is some serious steel hidden in these boxes to let them do this – the kind of steel that […] makes me dubious this could be taken apart without some serious torching and cutting.”

5. Drukta and Formail offices, Kortrijk Belgium

When printing office Drukta and mailing company Formail were moving to new premises – a former textile warehouse – they tasked architect-design firm Five AM with creating a low-cost, modern, open space that encouraged interaction between the offices and the work floor. The result incorporates used shipping containers inside the existing building, with the option of adding more in the future. Not all container architecture necessarily helps cuts costs though, particularly once you factor in line items such as renting a crane and welding, says Hogan.

6.  Market707, Toronto

This Canadian street food and retail market is part of Scadding Court Community Centre’s ‘ Business out of the Box’ initiative to support low-income entrepreneurs by providing them with refurbished shipping containers that are brightly painted and retrofitted to the vendors’ needs.


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