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Living in a metal box designed for transporting goods from A to B might not sound like the most tempting idea – in fact, it sounds a bit like something you’d be forced into rather than do by choice. But, undaunted, modern architects are making use of these utilitarian boxes and creating some quite amazing homes out of them.
Ordinarily, shipping containers fulfil a variety of uses. As well as, well, containing things for shipping, they’re used as mobile offices, secure storage units, portable canteens, toilets and showers for festivals and more besides – even installation art. Increasingly, though, designers are combining several together to make homes that are surprisingly comfortable, modern and cheap. They also have great environmental credentials, as by default they’re made of recycled materials.
Take a look at some of these impressive homes, and ask yourself whether life in a shipping container would really be so bad…
Redondo Beach House, California, USA
These smart designs, made up of eight shipping containers of different sizes, are deceptively spacious – with 20-foot ceiling heights, large living rooms and even built-in swimming pools. Doors and windows have been cut right into the walls, and there’s no attempt to disguise the materials’ industrial origins – and from looking at the photos of these attractive beachfront properties, there’s no need to. These homes won the designer the American Institute of Architecture’s Excellence in Design Innovation Award 2007.
Caterpillar House, Santiago, Chile
Overlooking the Andes just outside the Chilean capital, Casa Oruga (Caterpillar House) by architect Sebastian Irarrazaval comprises a total of 12 used shipping containers. This 350 sq m property utilises passive cooling in its design (meaning it’s cooled naturally by airflow), features an open-top shipping container as a swimming pool, and in parts even slopes slightly with the hillside to help it blend in with the surrounding landscape. The interior layout is certainly an unusual one, but we’d imagine you soon get used to it: especially with that fantastic view to look out at every day.
Keetwonen, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Allegedly the “biggest shipping container city in the world”, Keetwonen was borne out of a desire to save money on student accommodation. Company Tempohausing was contracted by the city of Amsterdam to build this 1,000-container complex spread over five floors. Each container features a kitchen, balcony and bathroom in its 25 sq m of living space, and they are rented to students at well below the going rate for other flats of this size. The project, completed in 2006, was initially supposed to be a temporary solution lasting for five years, but it proved such a hit with students that it has been extended until 2016.
Adriance House, Maine, USA
This near-manor, again constructed from 12 shipping containers, was constructed by architect Adam Alkin. In this case, the containers support the structure of the house, which is overlaid by glazing to create a huge, largely open-plan structure featuring a library, kitchen, playroom, office and three bedrooms. Two steel staircases lead up to the second level of the home. While the overall effect still looks a little like the interior of a warehouse, there’s no denying that Adriance House is an example of the sheer scale that shipping container architecture can aspire to.
Feeling handy? Been to Ikea before and know the drill? Then why not pick up the materials for this two-container house for $40,000 (£25,000) and build it yourself? Designed by artist Benjamin Garcia Saxe, this property opens up some space in a pair of containers by cutting away almost the entire side walls. These can then be re-used as a clerestory window that naturally lights and ventilates the home, eliminating the need for air conditioning. As you can see, the result is a trendy, modern-looking home – and the price is certainly right.