Friday Feature: Container City

Today’s feature is a cool development that I have known about for at least a couple of years – Container City.  It’s exactly what it sounds like – developments built from shipping containers that are no longer sea/train worthy.  What started as a single project in London by Urban Space Management in 2000 has greatly expanded, and Container Cities are now found globally.

Container city located just outside of Mexico

The beauty of this type of development is its adaptability: the container itself is meant to be transported anywhere (i.e. trains and boats ship them all the time), you can add or subtract extra floors quickly to meet demand (and by quickly we are talking in terms of days), and there is a lot of potential for different layouts and designs depending on the site specific needs of each location.  The video piece below shows some nice interior shots of the spaces which are quite bright and welcoming (contrary to what many people think when they see shipping containers).

I tend to pack-rat ideas and projects that I read about.  These ideas and projects then stew in my subconscious until something reminds me of their particular relevance.  In this case – I think that a Container City would be an amazing way to redevelop the CP railyard lands in the Warehouse District of Regina (instead of more hotels or strip malls as would be suggested here).

In the grand scheme to redevelop the land north of the tracks, creating a Container City could have great benefits for Regina’s downtown and Warehouse District.  The Downtown Plan has a strong focus on increasing the population and density of people living in the downtown area – with some pedways and improved access from these lands to downtown this could be a great step in that direction.  What’s more, this type of development could help to increase affordable housing in the city – the video above states the costs to be about $80-100/month for one container live-work space.  The video is a few years old, but it is likely that these units would still provide an affordable form of housing when compared to many other options.

The container aspect also strikes me as a great opportunity to acknowledge that space for what it has been historically.  Over time there have been innumerable shipping containers on this site – it seems only fitting to use this innovative, modern design to speak to both the future and the past.  A project like this can also add a bit of hip design and panache to an area looking for revitalization – it’s also a little reminiscent of Habitat 67 in Montreal (though obviously with a bit more colour)!

I think the Container City idea has a lot of potential for Regina in conjunction with other developments in the Warehouse Disctrict (i.e. potential stadium or increased retail and commercial) and I think it is something that should seriously be considered for the future of the area.

Have a great weekend!

Friday Feature: Container City

3 thoughts on “Friday Feature: Container City

  1. wourliem says:

    What do you think of the line of thought that suggests pre-fab construction contributes to a placeless ness? I have heard some, and I was trying to remember where the idea came from, who see pre-fab/modular as going against a ‘think local’ perspective stylistically and with sourcing materials.

    I think that in the rail yards case, container construction makes wonderful sense: it reflects that area’s history; the cost, as you rightly point out, is much less and building time is short.

    The main issues I see, however, with container construction in Regina are aesthetic. I do not think Regina residents would be open-minded about the look of containers or sympathetic to non-traditional building forms/materials. I think if this was an affordable project, you would hear from people who think containers are insulting to those needing affordable housing – that people want “real houses.” Affordable housing is unlikely for this land, where I am sure high priced condos are plan B after a football stadium. Finally, the stadium, if built, is such a large structure there will not be land available for something else to fit.

    Maybe I am too negative. I certainly welcome the concepts of Habitat 67 and the use of containers. I would like to see a container apartment as part of a larger development of that land that bridges Downtown and Warehouse districts. The mentality of the city at the moment does not seem receptive to bold ideas.

    1. I personally don’t buy the idea that container developments (or other modernist development) inevitably create placeless-ness. In contrast, I think because they are so distinct, they can create a very particular sense of place if done well. Really, any development if not thought out and designed well can feel placeless (I would argue that modern suburbs composed of cookie cutter “nose houses” available in an array of beiges, with limited sidewalks and street names that all start with the same word feel VERY placeless). I think creating a container city/or more modernist looking space offers the opportunity to incorporate a different aesthetic in amongst more traditional building styles (found in the Warehouse district and Downtown) – if everything is the same style it gets very monotonous and boring.

      Regarding whether or not people would find it offensive – anything is possible. However, I think people who would be interested in more traditional affordable “houses” (not apartments), likely would also not want to live on the Dewdney strip with bars and clubs. In addition to low-income individuals and families, students and artists make up a good chunk of the population needing affordable housing. A space like this (especially in this location close to Downtown and the Warehouse district) would actually be better suited to meeting that need – kind of like student housing or “artist studio” developments (if actually kept affordable).

      I don’t know if this type of project will ever come to fruition there, but I really think it is an important piece of the puzzle for developing that land so that it supports future growth and development in both those areas of town.

      1. wourliem says:

        I think your right about the container development being geared toward younger buyers. I did not think of the audience for such a development in my first comment, rather I focused on what I believe is the prevailing view in Regina. Certainly, small urban apartments large enough for one or two people would be welcomed by many, if they stay afforable.

        I have a hard time balancing the extremes of cookie cutter development and the post modern anything goes collection of buildings. I’m not sure why either extreme is bad, other than intuitivly, or why finding balance is hard for people designing cities. Many suburbs have supurb order, regulation and fairness but are lifeless. Many cities with statement buildings and a variety of forms thrown together feel chaotic.

        I was thinking about trying to draw out some ideas of this railyards area. Just to get some visual ideas of what could be possible. Ultimately moving the yards opens up land which could make our core more dense. Hopefully I can clarify some thoughts going forward.

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