15 Awesome Ways to Reuse Shipping Containers


Steel shipping containers outlive their usefulness as cargo carriers within 5 years, and they used to sit abandoned at shipyards for years. Now, they’re gaining increasing recognition for their durability, adaptability, light weight, low cost and ease of stacking, spurring a recycling trend that has resulted in shipping container sculpture, homes, hotels, museums and more. The possibilities are seemingly endless, as illustrated by these 15 amazing examples of cargo container reuse.



(image via: Ecopods)


(images via: Illy)


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The simple, boxy shape of shipping containers makes them perfect for housing, whether creating a small recycled dwelling out of just one container or stacking multiple containers for a larger home or complex of small living spaces.

The Ecopod is a great example of just how easy it can be to transform a shipping container into a compact, modern, energy-efficient home. It’s easy to set up and relocate, has a small footprint and is surprisingly light and airy, with an entire wall made up of sliding glass doors. The Ecopod is perfect for adding an extra bedroom to your home, or for use as an office or art studio.

The Illy Push Button House certainly doesn’t look like much from the outside. You’d pass it without a second thought, if it weren’t for the little Illy flag sticking out. But then, at the push of a button, something amazing happens – the whole thing unfolds into a chic, minimalist living space. It’s a five-room home with a kitchen, dining room, bedroom, living room and library.

London’s ‘Container City’ and the University of Utrecht Student Housing are bright, colorful, cheery examples of large-scale cargo container complexes. Container City relies on component pieces rather than units to create more livable, adaptable spaces while the Utrecht student housing complex takes the 1 container = 1 unit approach.



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Just as they can be artfully stacked and transformed into large housing complexes, shipping containers are perfectly suited for use as hotels. The world’s first shipping container hotel was built in Uxbridge, West London in 2008. The 8-story Travelodge was built from 86 modified shipping containers, and the whole process was said by the company to be 25 percent faster and 10 percent cheaper than conventional hotel buildings.

A particularly ambitious shipping container building project isn’t yet a reality, but the concept looks incredible. Morris Architects wants to turn abandoned oil rigs into ocean resorts, with the humble cargo container as a central building block to the designs. 4,000 soon-to-be deserted oil rigs would be converted in all, creating 80,000,000 square feet of living space out in the Gulf of Mexico.

Offices & Retail Buildings


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(image via: Inhabitat)

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It’s almost two times as large as the Mall of America, but comparisons end there. A giant makeshift mall just outside of Odessa, Ukraine is a sprawling complex of decaying shipping containers that have been stacked no higher than two stories, with narrow ladders offering the only way to get to the shops on top. Known as the Seventh Kilometer Market, this complex is an example of shipping containers used simply because they were available, not for design or recycling purposes.

In stark contrast are the Stuttgart shipping container skyscraper concept and the PUMA shipping container store, two modern examples of old cargo containers upcycled into buildings that are both functional and beautiful. German designer Lars Behrendt conceived of the skyscraper, made of 55 stacked containers, for use in a roundabout while the PUMA CITY retail structure is fully dismountable and travels around the world on a cargo ship.



(images via: NYC Architecture)


(image via: ContainerArt.org)

When illuminated at night, it looks like a gigantic church. The long hallways of the Nomadic Museum aren’t surrounded by stained glass and stone, however – the walls are made from, you guessed it, shipping containers. The 45,000 square foot complex is a temporary structure that is regularly disassembled so that its fine art contents can be seen around the world.

The Container Art Project is another example of shipping containers enabling museum curators to take their shows on the road. In this case, the containers aren’t just used to display sculpture, paintings and photography – they’re also the setting for interactive performance art.



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You can slap a door on a used shipping container and call it a house or an office, but it takes a tiny bit more creativity to transform it into art. These two shipping container sculptures show just how versatile this corrugated metal really is. The first sculpture, created by a team of artists in Rotterdam, disassembled, folded and twisted pieces of a shipping container into a modern art sculpture. The second example shows a piece of public art made from precariously stacked shipping containers in Yamashita Park, Yokohama, Japan.

Children’s Centers


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Four large shipping containers give kids in Melbourne, Australia a fun place to play. The containers have been designed to create an activity center made entirely of durable, recycled and environmentally friendly materials.

The Fawood Children’s Center in London features a bright, modern metal mesh exterior that encapsulates a stacked group of recycled shipping containers used as a nursery. Three groups of three-story shipping containers are joined together by walkways, projecting balconies and staircases.