Most people will look at a shipping container and think one immediate thought: Storage. But there is far more than what meets the eye when it comes to these noble guardians of goods handling.
Drivelines Studios: Design for a sustainable residential and retail space by architect LOT-EK in Johannesburg.
You only have to cast your mind back to the Homebase commercial where fifty twenty-foot containers were utilised to construct a ten-story home, one that seemed to resonate with the magical higgledy-piggledy home of the Weasley family in the Harry Potter films. Although, Homebase's version came complete with three gardens AND three kitchens - how about that for wizardry!
Similarly, the most recent series of George Clarke's Amazing Spaces, on Channel 4, featured the young designer, 'upcycler', entrepreneur and super savvy saver Max McMurdo and his search for an affordable riverfront pied-à-terre in the starkly expensive Capital.His solution: to transform one of these mighty containers into a fully fitted, functioning and floating bachelor pad that rid him from rent once and for all.
McMurdo adopted ingenious space saving techniques that resulted in him not compromising on any features - to the point he even fitted a Range and a bath!Shipping containers are too being used for more commercial and cultural purposes; ranging from museums, like the Nomadic Museum in NYC, to hotels such as The Portable Snoozebox, to art exhibits and even restaurants, like Wahaca on London's happening Southbank.
Even the globally renowned sporting brand Puma has caught on to this trend and had commissioned a transportable retail event building fittingly christened ‘Puma City.'
The Architect selected was LOT-EK, an award winning design studio who first gained notoriety through their focus on a sustainable approach to construction and through their innovative and adaptive ways of “upcycling” industrial objects that never before have been used or even come close to being considered building blocks for cutting edge architecture.
There too have been other sustainable projects, such as Greentainer, being launched which sees container residences being constructed that are kept in line with environmental sustainability and are themselves an ‘eco-container.'
But another far more peculiar way in which shipping containers have been making a name for themselves involves tens of thousands of rubber ducks! Back in January 1992, somewhere in the vast expanse that is the Pacific Ocean, twelve shipping containers broke free from Ever Laurel, a cargo ship headed for China, and in doing so unleashed a flotilla of 28,000 rubber ducks onto the world's oceans.
It was not until the summer of 2007 that these ducks - or friendly floatees as they have subsequently been named - after a fifteen year global Odyssey riding the sea's currents began to invade old blighty's shores and coastlines - some may say the ‘fowlest' of all to wash up on our beaches!
These Friendly Floatees however were a goldmine for scientists studying ocean surface currents. Being durable, easily identifiable - being bright yellow ducks - and drifting in large enough numbers they provided wealth of data that without such an ‘accident' would not have been possible.
When it comes to shipping containers, storage is just the tip of the iceberg in their life story. Everyday, hundreds of thousands of them are transporting all sorts of products to and from every corner of the world, people are living, working and relaxing in them, they are becoming huge cultural statements, and not to mention providing beachcombers, seafarers and even scientists with more than enough amazements.
Their uses are only limited to how far our imagination can stretch for them. It is even possible that they could provide us with a suitable and sustainable solution to the future housing demand - but I guess we shall just have to watch their space!