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Shipping Containers and the Pop-Up City

boxing club

This post is also available in: Portuguese (Brazil)

One of the major problems faced by temporary projects in cities is the creation of suitable spaces to house them. Construction can not only be complex, but it can be economically impractical for a project with a short lifespan. But as projects in cities across the globe are demonstrating, reusing existing materials and structures can solve this problem. Especially when those structures and modular shipping containers.

We've previously written about a project in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand [pt]. The city was hit by earthquakes in 2011, causing both structural and financial losses. From this loss, a temporary shopping mall made from shipping containers emerged. The construction was temporary, in place until the city's more permanent construction can take over, but it became a symbol of the city's ability to respond to catastrophe. The entire building cost $3.5 million and took only four months to construct, opening in September 2011.


This was not the first example of shipping container construction. Mexico and England had already seen similar projects, from shopping malls to hotels to homes. But the big breakthrough arguably came during the 2012 Olympics where the Olympic Broadcast Studios were made using the same approach. The company responsible for the Studios was Urban Space Management, who have a giant range of projects under their belts already including cafes, temporary media centres, schools, parks and office complexes. Urban Space Management have produced projects for businesses and governments, helping revitalise degraded areas of the city through shipping containers – materials that have proven themselves to be sustainable and affordable.

Despite the initial appearance, shipping container construction is not just a novelty construction method for pop-up city projects. There are scientific facilities in Antarctica made from shipping containers, for example! However, applying the concept in urban environments is a lot more simple, quick and inexpensive. Provided there is demand for temporary spaces, shipping containers may be able to provide the solution. And the quality of existing projects demonstrate how everyday shipping containers can be a great solution.

Some of our favourite shipping container projects are pictured below. Does your city have any unusual equivalents? Let us know in the comments.





Igor Rodrigues is editor of This Big City em português

Images via sheilaellen and Urban Space Management