I have previously written about Tiny Houses and The Bay Area Housing Crisis, mentioning that (while I prefer the quaint cottage style tiny house) I found shipping container houses to be easier to manufacture for permanent dwellings [because of their pre-fabricated/pre-inspected quality]. Since writing that article, I have traveled to England and realized that shipping containers are ALREADY being utilized as restaurants/offices/homes. and I have pictures.
It was a bit of dream come true after spending so much time designing and exploring the possibilities of shipping containers, to suddenly See them in perfect usage. Beautifully implemented, and successfully integrated into a community.
At first, it was just a few sprinkled into the city, in the form of tiny eateries. And I was happy to see that someone out there was making them, and even more so, that the city had accepted them.
The first collection of shipping containers I saw in London at Elephant and Castle, was called: The Artworks Elephant. They were colorful boxes, stacked 3-high, and formed a triangular courtyard, which was filled with small café tables. Each container was a small business, some were restaurants, some were offices, a retail shop, or a tattoo shop. The usable space inside each one was about 7-feet wide.
Each one should have contained a toilet, but some washrooms were repurposed as storage/refrigerators. The entrance end of the containers were glass windows/doors, and each one had a unique interior. Some of them had wood floors, some had checkered tile floors. Some were well-lit, and others had trendy light fixtures; some had sting lights or chandeliers. They were all thoughtfully decorated.
This particular structure was originally student housing, and has since became a retail square. See pictures.
One of the workers at this container complex, recommended another container mall a few miles away at Shoreditch, called: Boxpark.
This one had a ground floor where every shop faced the street, and appeared to be a long wall of doors, each with a stylish modern shop behind it. And the 2nd floor containers were all restaurants, all perpendicular to the ground floor. Situated 4 eateries at a time, with a wide open-sky hallway in between them, and shared court yard seating at the entrance end of each block. The whole structure was painted flat black. It was clean and contemporary, and appeared to be a trendy place to hang out.
The last container structure I saw in a beach town in southern England, Brighton, and came across it totally by accident. It was explained to me as a low income apartment building; built to help the city’s homeless, and was situated directly next to a dingy underpass. Despite the unattractive location and the plain appearance of the building, the structure had everything necessary for comfortable long-term living, including a community garden and a community storage container. The main part of the building was stacked 5-high, and 6 wide, with stairs at both ends; and there might’ve been a few more containers up the sides as well. What surprised me about it, was that we were no longer in the big city, meaning that even the small cities are utilizing shipping containers as a fast-efficient-modern-attractive-convenient resource for creating usable-reliable space.
These units are a practical use of available space, and the structures don’t take long to construct. It’s possible to build a 40-studio unit apartment building in a week. And could be disassembled in the same amount of time. Imagine the possibilities.