Cargotecture: Using Old Shipping Containers in New Construction

How some architects and designers are using a few of the two million empty containers sitting idle at any given time to create surprising work

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It is estimated that two million empty shipping containers are sitting idle at any given time. Given that, cargotecture, or the adaptive reuse of these giant steel shells, sounds like a remarkably obvious idea: It is sustainable; it creates original and surprising architecture; and there are time-saving, manageability, and module organization advantages as well.

The term cargotecture was coined by HyBrid Architecture of Seattle around 2004 to describe any system built entirely or partially from ISO shipping containers. It's a broad definition. Containers are so versatile that they can be exposed and incorporated into the exterior of a building or construction project, or they can be hidden away, used merely as a structurally strong prefab element. And, if they're used for a temporary project, shipping containers can easily be re-recycled into a new structure.


View the complete OpenBuildings collection: Cargotecture.

Image: Lars Engelgaar.

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OpenBuildings is a community-driven encyclopedia of buildings from around the world. It is a database of historic, contemporary, and conceptual architecture that exists as a website and applications for iPhone and Android.

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