Shipping Containers Spotlighted through Upcycling as Cultural Space
As box-shaped structures designed for cargo transport, shipping containers are characteristically semi-permanent and thus reusable. Moreover, they are created through special design with a view to promoting convenience. The advantage of a container is that its standardized structure reduces unloading and delivery time in international transport, facilitates transshipment involving different means of transportation and enables bulk transport, and greatly saves transport costs.
The first shipping containers were built for rail transport in the late 19th century. However, the introduction of mass production system by advanced countries after the First World War led to a sharp increase in high-speed mass transport and ship’s hold. It was then that containers began to be used for maritime transport as well. Accordingly, unloading operation at ports changed from labor-intensive to capital-intensive style, thus leading to the introduction of multimodal transport using containers on land and sea.
Shipping container meets with culture
While these unstylish square steel boxes are principally responsible for the enormous volume that today’s world trade registers, containers are neither high-tech items nor stylish gizmos. Use of containers got into full swing when people used them to carry military supplies and munitions. As they emerged as vehicles for worldwide transport, containers became globalized. Now, these unstylish and merely economical rectangular steel box houses cafès, shopping, and culture. That’s what these unimpressive steel storage boxes do.
Now available in any part of the world, Starbucks has come into a container. Washington D.C. has a Starbucks building made out of 20′ and 40′ cargo containers. In line with its intentions related to eco-friendliness and recycling, they chose eco-friendly interior and design. With no seating accommodation available inside, the Starbucks store handles only take-out and drive-thru customers. The building not only used containers as eco-friendly permanent materials, but could also recycle rain water with its exterior finishings and roof design. The 450m2 structure made with four containers is expected to serve for next five years as a model for Starbucks drive-thru.
Global store design manager for Starbucks, Anthony Perez said, “From our head office, we see a port where containers are stacked. Containers serve to deliver coffee, our company’s product, to all parts of the world. Used for about 20 years, containers end up in a scrapyard. So, I thought. What could be done to help the environment by using those dilapidated containers?”
Containers merge with shopping
It’s not just cafès. Shopping malls also go into shipping containers. Opened in 2011, Box Park, which is located in Shoreditch, London, will operate by 2015 as a pop-up shop. Box Park is the world’s first shipping container mall. The building that has been constructed by stacking shipping containers, as the name suggests, houses a shopping complex that sells a variety of brands. Originally designed for temporary operation in an empty lot in Brick Lane, east of London, the structure turned into continuous operation after it was positively evaluated in its effects and significance and demonstrated a good performance in terms of sales.
When Box Park was first opened, a certain brand chose to present its display by filling the whole space of a single shipping container with installation pieces. The brand deployed a design marketing strategy aimed to create a sense of freshness by displaying such an installation piece for about a month before introducing brand products. Box Park is constructed of stripped and refitted shipping containers, creating unique, low-cost, low-risk pop-up stores. In South Korea, a mega mall was built after the UK precedent, with 200 shipping containers.
Shipping containers as a flower shop and a clothing store
Baylor Chapman, a floral designer, opened her San Francisco shop Lila B., of which the office and the open shop were built with shipping containers. Her eco-friendly Container Garden and floral works were so beautiful that they were featured in Gerdenista, a renowned landscape magazine.
San Francisco has one more attraction: a shipping container clothing store named Aether. It is a three-story building made with 8′ x 9.6′ x 40′ shipping containers stacked one over another. The structure was designed by Envelope A+D, a California-based design company, in collaboration with Chris French Metal.
A shipping container as a space for family
Created by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, which is the most famous, no, the happiest shoes mall in the world, the container park was designed as a festive venue where not only its full-time staff but also visitors to Las Vegas can have fun together. The project is not only significant in that it up-cycles used shipping containers, which would otherwise end up waste resources, but it also represents ‘flexible urbanism,’ which is about upgrading a region’s value by performing construction while minimizing waste of resources at a small cost. This does not stop at being meaningful from an eco-friendly perspective. In fact, it takes a considerable amount of funding to build such large-sized shopping mall or theme park. In this light, a container park can save a lot of money by recycling shipping containers.
A container park has total 39 venues including gallery, boutique, cafè, and restaurant in its forty shipping containers. Inside the stack of shipping containers, you have a four-story high slide and a playpen, while musical events are presented all the year around. After the sunset, fire is spewed from the huge mantis bug-like sculpture, and children gambol around in the container forest while tapping drums.
Containers can fit into an empty parking lot, an old site of building, and even a small space beside a building. They can occupy any spare space in downtown area or in natural settings. Low-cost, free from environmental destruction, and capable of being stacked as high as a building, shipping containers ensure a high level of space usability. That’s why shipping containers draw spotlight as a type of building that allows speedy construction while not causing damage to environment.
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