Container as building blocks
There has been no shortage of fascination of architects with using shipping containers to create spaces. Could the use of such containers provide a realistic alternative to larger scale affordable housing?
Because the units high very tight tolerances, they fit together easily without much additional structure. This allows the construction costs to be considerably less (I think in this case they 20-30% less expensive than a similar conventional building). Each of the discarded containers (8'x8'x40') were retrofitted with windows, doors, insulation, and other infrastructure, allowing a comfortable living environment. Even the elevator shaft was made out of containers. Additionally, they can be built very quickly (phase 2 only took three months to build).
This project offers a lot of contradictions, though. Once they were put together, the basically lost the mobility for which they were designed for in the first place. Walls are cut open, joints are welded together and an image is produced. It is fixed. But, it is not totally inflexible. By opening up the walls, you can create larger interspersed spaces that could potentially offer different plans and changes in the future. Because most of the bearing takes place on the corners, it is possible to open up with long sides with minimal structural support. Units actually range from 240-540 sf). Thinking of the containers as shells with a more open and free interior does offer some interesting possibilities. Additionally, the project did add on another floor of containers after the original three floors were built.
While it is a really cool project and serves it purpose well, I am not convinced of longer term or larger viability. It is cool, because it is a novelty at the moment, there is distinct segment of the population interested in living in such a building. But, because it is do different, most of the population probably wouldn’t have much interest in living in such a place. To me, it seems clear they are not interested in ultimate affordability or accessibility, but maximized profits at the end of the day. I was supposed to get permission to even take pictures, even though I didn’t. Regardless, as a testing ground for such ideas, I think it is remarkable. Additionally, architect Sean Goddsell from Australia is using them for emergency shelter and there are some interesting proposals coming out of Seattle, and as usual the Dutch firm MVRDV has some ideas for Rotterdam...