Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

This site uses cookies. By using our services, you agree to our cookie use.
Learn more here.

Competition: Unbox 2017

An open international ideas contest has been announced to repurpose disused shipping containers as new public spaces around the world (Deadline: 8 January)

Tthe anonymous competition, open to architects, designers, students and other professionals, seeks ‘ingenious’ ideas to transform abandoned shipping containers into new public facilities in any urban or rural location.

The call for ideas, organised by Volume Zero, invites participants to draw up any proposal based on repurposing up to four shipping containers. The project aims to generate sustainable ideas about the potential to recycle the planet’s estimated two million discarded shipping containers.

Container City in Cholula, Mexico

Container City in Cholula, Mexico

Source: Image by vladimix

Container City in Cholula, Mexico

According to the brief: ‘The world today has become aware of the reckless utilisation of natural resources and is now making conscious efforts to move towards a sustainable future. In this endeavour, it has become imperative to rethink our approach towards building materials to ease the pressure on the conventional ones. The shipping container is one such potential building material that boasts good structural quality, can be recycled easily and is universally available.

‘UnBox 2017 intends to illustrate the inventive functionality of the material to the masses by using the containers to craft spaces in the public realm. The competition wants to enhance the future of public spaces with material innovation that fosters disruptive architecture and sustainability. How can an ingenious, disruptive idea enhance our world’s future and create a sustainable living for all?’

Shipping containers – also known as intermodal containers – were invented in the early 20th century and standardised globally in the 1950s and 1960s. Designed for moving various freight items in different transport settings, most containers range in length from 2.4 metres to 17.1 metres and are usually constructed from Cor-Ten steel with plywood floors.

Shipping containers typically cost between $1,750 and $2,000 to manufacture, and remain in service for up to 10 years. Many are repurposed rather being used for exports, either as storage or as other innovative facilities such as housing, retail or offices.

Cité A Docks student housing project in Le Havre, France

Cité A Docks student housing project in Le Havre, France

Source: Image by Philippe Alès

Cité A Docks student housing project in Le Havre, France

Recent projects include the 4,500m2 Container City in Cholula, Mexico and the Cité A Docks student housing project (pictured) in Le Havre, France. BDP completed a 96-unit restaurant complex – known as the Box Park – in Croydon, south London last year.

Competition submissions may respond to any site but should be flexible and capable of responding to developing local needs while also being sustainable and enhancing the surrounding public realm.

Applications should include renders, elevations, plans and up 200 words of explanatory text. Schemes will be judged on their response to the site, innovation and sustainability. There will be a first prize of USD 2,000; second prize of USD 1,200 and a third prize of USD 800.

How to apply

Deadline

The registration deadline is 8 January and submissions must be completed by 15 January.

Fee

Early bird registration from 8 October to 8 December: $65 USD

Standard registration from 9 December to 8 January: $85 USD

Contact details

Email: questions@volzero.com

Visit the competition website for more information

Caution Cinema case study: Q&A with Alex Scott-Whitby

The director of ScottWhitbySTUDIO discusses lessons learned transforming a disused shipping container into a pop-up educational cinema

How did your Caution Cinema project transform a shipping container into a new public space?

Caution Cinema was a product of more than three years’ research into site safety in and around some of the UK’s most dangerous environments. Our project turned the interior of a small shipping container into a dark, soundless, and warm environment. In short the total opposite of what it normally is. The journey into the shipping container disorientates the user as does the total immersive environment of over 1,000 colourful sound insulation cones. Our new space gave people the opportunity to sit in peace and quiet in an area that was otherwise incredibly noisy, and feel warm and secure in a place that was normally cold and dangerous. Our hope is that this place will play a small part in saving people’s lives, and encourage people to be cognisant of their own and others’ safety while working or being around the UK’s docksides.

Caution Cinema by ScottWhitbySTUDIO

Caution Cinema by ScottWhitbySTUDIO

Source: Image by Osman Marfo Gyasi

Caution Cinema by ScottWhitbySTUDIO

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

Caution Cinema for us was an opportunity to explore what and where sound insulation foam pyramids might take us. We explored and prototyped in the studio how these pyramids might turn corners and how they would be to stand on and site on. As a shipping container is such a small and confined space we felt that using this material as a continuous covering would create the best effect and also help us to really create a space that lived long in the mind.

Caution Cinema by ScottWhitbySTUDIO

Caution Cinema by ScottWhitbySTUDIO

Source: Image by Osman Marfo Gyasi

Caution Cinema by ScottWhitbySTUDIO

What advice would you have to contest participants on reinventing the shipping container for public use?

Don’t try too hard or try to be too clever. A shipping container is a shipping container. The best projects that we have seen use the containers’ essential characteristics in interesting and surprising ways, but do not try to turn it into something it is not. We also think it is vital a participant really understands how and where shipping containers are made, as this journey is one to be celebrated.

Caution Cinema by ScottWhitbySTUDIO

Caution Cinema by ScottWhitbySTUDIO

Source: Image by Osman Marfo Gyasi

Caution Cinema by ScottWhitbySTUDIO

Q&A with Aniket Wadke

The competition organiser discusses his ambitions for the contest

Volume Zero

Volume Zero

Volume Zero

Why are your holding a competition for ideas to reuse shipping containers in the public realm?

We believe that containers as a building material have tremendous potential to solve urban problems with a smart and intelligent approach. Over a period many great architects and designers have experimented with containers. We want our participants to identify the problems in public realm where the use of containers is fairly unexplored, keeping sustainability as a key factor. We believe in every part there would be a unique set of challenges as per their context, where upcycling containers can solve some great problems. International participation would help our architectural community learn and understand each other’s multiple approaches towards designing and creating solutions. Thus the judges will have some unique and true concepts to evaluate based on disruptive design innovation.

What is your vision for the future of these objects in public spaces?

With rapid innovation in every field, we are currently facing numerous new and existing problems in the public realm, from essential public utility function to urban sustainable issues, some known some yet to be identified. Used containers, which otherwise might be lying in shipyards, can serve a purposeful building material. The value of aesthetics would be up to the participants’ design and justification of form. The participants are free to choose the site and define the context. They can use up to four containersof the sizes described in the brief. Key judging criteria will be architectural design innovation, site, and context justification along with sustainability.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

Architects, designers, students, and professionals from any background who consider themselves to be innovators, who believe they can create a solution for current issues and also anticipate the future. It is an opportunity for everyone who believes their ideas that can create a good impact. Emerging and undiscovered talents have a special chance to propose their designs and solutions. The top three winners will share a prize fund of USD $4,000, and we will also be publishing their designs in our magazine and several other international magazines. There will also be Volume Zero Design Trophies for the winners.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon, and how will the architects/designers be procured?

Our team is always working towards finding interesting opportunities where architects and designers can exercise and push their creativity and, at the same time, add value to communities. Our vision is to strive to host competitions that solve global problems and we believe in providing a global platform for architects and designers to showcase the same. All our briefs will strive to ignite the hidden talent and will focus on creating a global platform for creative minds. There will definitely be more competitions coming up in the future with exciting challenges demanding smart innovations and design solutions.

Are there any other shipping container reuse projects you have been impressed by?

The idea of disruptive innovation is inspired by various architects and designers who have dared to go beyond using conventions for creating solutions. NL Architects, Cumulus Studio, Lot-ek, GAD, Potash architects are some who have done great design using shipping containers.