Tag Archives: shipping containers


Staying untypically on-topic, the good folk at Rhizome are doing a series of future fictions under the banner Dystopia Everyday, using the software-dev format of the “user story”. The latest one is “Containers” by Adam Rothstein, and I commend it to your attention:

I woke up at the chime, looked at the mobile. New work available. I clocked in, made coffee, sat at the desk. Two hours of work right away, even before Twitter. Felt accomplished. I invoiced, and collected.

I met Sandra for breakfast. She’s in Miami. She had the ceiling open to let in the sun. She got into a new task queue, editorial work. It’s good work, she said, even though the pay isn’t quite as good as advertising. What’s the difference, I said, sipping my Bloody Mary. Different algorithmic authors, same algorithmic grammar problems.

It’s brief, bleak, and on-point — a great demonstration of the provocative mode in design fiction. I also like the way the user story format reads like a sort of day-job Hemingway, and wonder whether it’s an artefact of the style so much as Adam’s interpretation of it…

BONUS RELATED MATERIAL: how many shipping containers really get lost at sea? Quite a few, it turns out.

Shipping container tower block

In what might be some bizarre manifestation of hyper-rapid Zeitgesit symbolism adoption, the repurposed shipping container really does look like it will be one of the visual memes of 2009. Here’s the latest contender, the proposed Lotto Turm of Stuttgart, Germany:

Lotto Turm - shipping container tower block

The Lotto Turm tower will be constructed of 55 shipping containers stacked on top of each other, and will be designed to include a noise-free courtyard as well as a spiral pathway that circles around the building. Balconies, terraces, and stairs accent the tower from top to bottom, giving the stacked block structure a fantastical quality, and Gardens and plants will accentuate the varied vertical landscape. The public may enter and go all the way to the top of tower for a view of the city through the lotto sphere.

I don’t know what local development policy is like in Germany, but there’s no way that a shipping container tower block would get a green light here in the UK (more’s the pity). That said, I’m not entirely sure how straight-faced the Lotto Turm idea really is – there’s definitely an element of humour in Behrendt’s design.

Still, given the amount of shipping containers that have started piling up empty in docks and factory lots around the country, they’re just waiting to be reused for something worthwhile; pragmatism may defeat NIMBYism in shorter order than anyone might expect. [image by architect/designer Lars Behrendt]

Shipping containers redux

Good grief, is there anything you can’t do with a shipping container? Hot on the heels of speculative mutating condominiums comes this: a nice simple urban newsagents:

A shop in a shipping container

Looks like it has been squeezed into a former front or side yard… this sort of instant architecture is likely to become a lot more commonplace in our cities, I feel.

Makes good business sense, too… locality becoming impoverished? Hire a truck, load her on and ship her out. A fully portable business. [picture by Paul McAuley]

Corb v2.0 – mutating shipping container condos

The humble shipping container has been reimagined quite a few times in recent years, and has appeared as a potential housing solution in sf novels and stories from (among others) Ken MacLeod, Neal Stephenson and Gareth L Powell, as well as starring as a plot McGuffin in William Gibson’s latest; the BBC are even following a shipping container by GPS for a year.

But nothing quite prepares you for the bright day-glo architectural enthusiam of the guys who’ve come up with CORB v2.0, a kind of mutating condominium made from shipping containers:

CORB v2.0 shipping container condominium - image copyright Anderew Maynard Architects

Changing your view or neighbours with the seasons or on a whim is not a problem at Corb. Changes in family dynamics or space requirements are easily dealt with.

Traditional hierarchies determined and reinforced by wealth are void here. When you live at Corb, everyone gets a penthouse just as often as they get a ground floor apartment.

One can only hope that, unlike Hiro Protagonist, you don’t end up with a choice of views over the runways of a major airport… or, as seems more likely, over a busy freight port. [image borrowed from Maynard Architects site; all rights reserved by owner, reproduced here under Fair Use terms; story via Justin Pickard]

The secret life of shipping containers

shipping containers at VancouverNothing represents the ubiquity of global trade better than the humble metal shipping container, the industrial-scale use of which celebrates its fiftieth birthday this year.

The BBC, in one of their more adventurous and off-beat moments, have decided to crack the locks on containerised shipping with a year-long investigative project, prosaically entitled “The Box”. Basically, they’ve painted the BBC logo on a shipping container, fitted it with GPS, and set up an online map where you can follow its progress around the world over land and sea.

It’s not just a hollow gesture either – the container will actually be used for carrying real cargoes, so we’ll get to watch world trade in action. That said, it might be a bit more exciting to watch in high speed once the project is over…

All I want to know now is which bright spark at the Beeb has been reading Spook Country? [hat-tip to Asgrim; image by sporkist]