Williams Scotsman

Creative Containers: Architects Transform Portable Storage Units into Sustainable Structures

Portable storage containers are commonly used by construction firms and retail stores to keep materials, equipment and inventory safe from the elements and theft. But around the world, architects, community planners and entrepreneurs are finding new, inventive ways to use portable storage units to create visually stunning places for people to work, eat and live.

Here are some great examples of how storage containers have been reinvented around the world.



Container Cities

Photo: CMGLee

Photo: CMGLee

In 2001, Urban Space Management created Container City I in London’s Trinity Buoy Wharfand, transforming 40’ storage containers into affordable housing and office space within four days. In 2002, Container City II was created by adding more offices and colorful bridges to connect it to Container City I.

Ice Cream Parlor in a Can

In San Francisco’s Hayes Valley, Smitten Ice Cream put a new spin on the traditional ice cream parlor using a 40’ storage container. Builders sliced the container in half and trimmed it with wood paneling for a more industrial feel to complement their unique, liquid nitrogen-based ice cream.

Photo: Christopher Browns

Convertible Coffee House

Similarly, coffee company, illy, teamed with architect Adam Kalkin to create a distinctive place to enjoy a cup of Joe. Kalkin transformed a portable storage container into a temporary café in Trieste, Italy. In 90 seconds at the touch of a button, the unassuming storage container unfolds into an ornate indoor/outdoor coffee house. Watch the video here.

Nomadic Museum

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban designed a portable museum that fit the theme of artist/photographer Gregory Colbert’s Ashes and Snow exhibit. This mobile museum made from storage containers changes as it’s shuttled from city to city along with its exhibit. The exhibit and museum debuted in 2005 in New York City and have since traveled to Santa Monica, Mexico City and Tokyo.

Photo: Paulo Mazzo

Reformed Dorm

Dutch architect Mart de Jong came up with a clever solution to university overcrowding with his “Spacebox” concept. Implemented by Utrecht University in The Netherlands, exteriors were modified to look more like a conventional dorm.

Photo: Wojtek Gurak

While, admittedly, we’re still fans of the many more conventional uses of portable storage units, we must applaud these contributions to innovative and sustainable architecture.

Have you seen any creative uses of storage containers? Let us know in the comments.

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