Unbox 2017 – An Architectural Competition, About Imagination, Innovation and Impact



“You cannot go through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
-Jane Goodall
Working in an array of realms related to transformation of land, and building of spaces, architects belong to that realm of professionals who are constantly required to think of their impact on this world. At present, threats of climate change, rising emissions, depleting resources and increasing pollution are realities we are facing, and it would take all of us to contribute towards thoughtful solutions and viable, sustainable options.

1Source: Architect’s Trace – WordPress.com

In this scenario, among the hopeful architectural solutions striving towards optimum sustainability is the ‘Architecture of Shipping Containers’. The first thought towards this can be traced back to November 23, 1987, when Philip Clark from the United States of America, filed for a patent for ‘Method for converting one or more steel shipping containers into a habitable building at a building site and the product thereof’.




Source: SlapBcn (Flickr)

There are numerous reasons responsible for the growing acceptability and eagerness towards ‘Shipping Container Architecture’, in today’s scenario. For starters, they are inherently designed for strength to withstand load by stacking as well as severe weather conditions, making them durable for any architectural purpose. Moreover, their availability makes them highly accessible. The production of shipping containers is more economically viable than their transport for return and reuse, due to which, they are abandoned after initial usage. Their make is modular and sizes are standardized which makes any further transport for architectural purposes easier. These are made in steel, and therefore, their reuse and up cycling would contribute towards saving of thousands of kilograms of steel, making this a highly eco-friendly initiative.

3Source: Gateway Containers
4Source: Architectural Digest
5Source: Shipping Container Homes Australia

The architecture of shipping containers has seen extensive evolution since its conception. The initial ideas involved usage of the space it provides for multiple functions, without extensive transformation. Gradually, the containers began to be used as a basic building block, morphed into various forms and arrangements as per design. As these initial examples came to be known as success stories, more and more thought generated usage of shipping containers in parts, stacks, combinations, angles and positions of diverse nature and in extensive range.
The progress noted in shipping container architecture, and the environmental as well as architectural trends today, suggest that there is, a vast amount of potential, yet to be unlocked in the realm. Architects today have been working with these modular units to introduce architecture which is functional, sustainable and aesthetic and it only indicates that the road for further exploration has been paved.



6Information Kiosk; Source: NL Architects

Dongdaemun Design Plaza, in South Korea was a project finished by Zaha Hadid Architects in the year 2014. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations of the country, and as with all designs characteristic of the firm, depicts fluidity in architecture through curvilinear forms and meandering transitions in spaces. An additional development in the plaza, in the form of a series of compact kiosks was sought, and NL Architects was among the ten teams to have been asked for a design for the same. Their design solution was to design these kiosks, taking the modular unit of a shipping container, and transforming it effectively to suit the aesthetics of the plaza itself.


7Information Kiosk; Source: NL Architects

“In the presence of Zaha all matter seems to become fluid…even the most rigid of forms turns malleable, pliable, soft,” reads the project description. Source: ArchDaily


Source: NL Architects
Source: NL Architects

Therefore, one approach towards successful experimentation, to give rise to a diverse sense of architecture through shipping containers, is applying transformational loads on the physical form of the units. Similarly, another application, using the same modular unit, could be transforming its inner core, according to the required function.

10Source: PressReader

Alok Shetty, the founding architect of Bhumiputra, a Bengaluru based design firm, believes in simple, yet innovative solutions, being the key to resolving major issues confronting the architectural world today. Having started his practice at the age of 19, while still in college, his experience follows this ideology, and among his recent ventures has been the exploration of a shipping container, in its basic form, being altered internally so that it ultimately unfolds and can suit various purposes.




11Source: complex.com

He speaks about the viability of adopting such models for various reasons. For instance, the availability of shipping containers and the economic and environmental value of using one, for it repurposes an otherwise abandoned entity which has been produced by consumption of energy and resources, and it saves further energy and resources that would be expended on an entirely new construction. The modularity also indicates ease of transport. The example herein opens into an auditorium, giving rise to the ideal notion of being able to set up talks, lectures, classrooms and programmes anywhere, depending only on transportation. This example can, in one way, define ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’ in architecture, an essential mantra which has been propagated for decades, but is yet to be adopted on a mainstream scale.

The depicted examples are not only innovations in shipping containers, but are also indicative of the shift in thought from privatized entities to design for public.

12Source: TODERIAN Urban Works

Public Space Design, despite its wide usage, and even necessity, remains an under utilised aspect in the realm of architecture. Cities today are rapidly developing, but the process of planning does not include highlighting the importance of public open spaces. A number of projects in public space designing taken up recently are derived at in retrospect, in a bid to increase the level of interaction citizens have with their cities.

13Source: Pop-Up City

Citing the example of a metropolis, the relevance of public spaces is barely felt by the vast number of citizens that reside and work here. With everyone engrossed in their own hectic routines, public spaces lie largely ignored, and as a result, are left abandoned, often falling prey to encroachment and other impacts of neglect. Public spaces which allow the citizens to revel in their surroundings and recreate while interacting with the city and others would contribute towards enhancing lifestyles.

14Source: Londonist

Shipping containers are a building unit whose importance has been steadily felt over the years, and designers are starting to explore the extensive possibilities they hold in the architectural realm. While public spaces have been gaining more and more importance, one of the drawbacks is the fact that while intriguing designs are sought, most concerned authorities are held back due to paucity of funds. Opting for economically viable solutions in the public scenario therefore becomes a key aspect in resolving this issue.

Ideating that these two separate elements in the architectural world be brought together symbiotically, forging a synergy which would infuse life into these individual elements, it would be highly interesting to conceptualize relevant and related design solutions.

Architecture is a field which is constantly on the edge of tantalizing innovations and discoveries. The world today is also constantly on the brink of new advancements, with transformations on the earth happening immense rapidity. Being among the effecters of change, architects owe it to their profession and the world, to raise ideas with imagination, while ensuring their impact is thoughtful.

-Devashree Vyas, Volume Zero

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