the shipping container: a modular, standardized, portable, stack-able, seal-able, human-scale receptacle used to transport a range of cargo all over the world. they come in two sizes – 20-feet or 40-feet – and hundreds of combinations. in recent years, they have also been discovered in the field of architecture for their availability, low cost, ease of installment and dynamic capabilities to create comfortable inhabitable spaces. 2012 witnessed an exploration of the metallic building blocks, pushing their spatial properties to new realms, experimenting with different configurations and connections to recycling the cold industrial cuboids into useful structures. the following ten projects take our understanding of the shipping container |and turns it upside down, and onto it’s head, and on its side and in just about any other way that can be thought of. 







1.  ‘mobile pizzeria’ by del popolo


the project takes advantage of the container’s dimensions to fix it onto a different kind of structure, converting it into a traveling workstation thatmakes pizzas just about anywhere. special doors and windows were adjusted into the metallic shell which also withstands the heat of the traditional wood-burning oven.



designboom 2012 top ten: container buildings







2. ‘shipping container snackbox in times square’ by aedifica


using a single container, the mobile cafe uses the crate’s proportions to open the structure to the public for food service. it can be entirely closed back into a solid box and moved to a new location.



designboom 2012 top ten: container buildings ‘snackbox’ by aedifica, times square, new york







3. ‘sugoroku office’ by daiken-met architects / nawakenji-m


placed within a cap-sizable three by three grid metal frame, the building focuses on the containers’ abilities to stack, with a strategic use of solid and void to create interior and exterior spaces with movable circulation elements that allow for the arrangement of boxes to be changed for future uses.



designboom 2012 top ten: container buildings ‘shipping container studio’ by daiken-met architects, gifu, japan







4. ‘maison container lille’ by patrick partouche


the ‘maison container lille’ residence is a contemporary industrial interpretation of rural architecture. consisting of 8 containers stacked and offset, the dwelling opens views to the fields through full-height windows that use the built-in doors as shutters to control solar gain and privacy.



designboom 2012 top ten: container buildings ‘maison container lille’ by patrick partouche, lille, france







5. ‘starbucks drive-thru and walk-up store made from shipping containers’


thanks to their customizable nature, the containers have also made their way into the commercial world, where few modifications can turnthe metal boxes into attractive designer buildings designed to pose a distinct aesthetic and accommodate different uses, such as automobile traffic in this case.



designboom 2012 top ten: container buildings







6. onagawa temporary container housing + community center by shigeru ban


relatively easily obtained and quickly installed, the containers make great candidates for emergency housing. the project responds to a housing crisis after the 2011 earthquake in japan to temporarily re-build shelters. arranged along a single floor, the containers not only provide private homes, but also focus around the residual spaces created between them as common areas.



designboom 2012 top ten: container buildings community center for the ‘onagawa temporary container housing’ by shigeru ban architects, onagawa, miyagi, japan







7. ‘temporary shipping container city’ by O+A


a more complex combination of the two previously listed projects, the temporary ‘city’ is a result of stacked containers that use their structural propertiesto span the interstitial space as a roof structures, staggered to allow daylight into the semi-covered space.



designboom 2012 top ten: container buildings ‘temporary shipping container city’ by O+A, amsterdam, the netherlands







8. ‘GAD’ by MMW architects


the temporary art gallery pushes the container’s structural capacities even further, experimenting with cantilevering volumes supported by slender columns creating an interesting stacking of masses used to display art in their original steel skin.



designboom 2012 top ten: container buildings ‘GAD’ by MMW architects in tjuvholmen, norway







9. ‘luxury shipping container hotel’ by tonghe shanzhi landscape design


the hotel experiments with the deconstruction of the solitary container to create different qualities of light and views on a campus of 35 units fitted for high-endtemporary visits.



designboom 2012 top ten: container buildings ‘Xiang Xiang Pray House’ by beijing tonghe shanzhi landscape design, xhanxi province, china







10. ‘tony’s farm’ by playze


jumping to a much larger scale, the arrangement of the 78 containers makes greater use of their structures, cutting larger voids into the envelopeto open large continuous spaces with large windows; smaller perforations in the skin play with ventilation and interior lighting effects.



designboom 2012 top ten: container buildings ‘tony’s farm’ by playze, shanghai, china