Shipping Container Project: Customer Retreat

There have been people talking about using shipping containers in architecture recently and in some cases there are some amazing projects that have actually been realized. Just do a simple on line search and you will find a lot of great designs. The best part is, in most cases, they don’t look like shipping containers. After the exteriors (and interiors) are all jazzed up the containers are pretty much just structural elements hidden within the walls.

I posted a story about an outdoor beer garden in Nanjing that was designed using three containers (link). In the case of that project the containers are laid bare and are obviously shipping containers, but it works well for a beer garden.

A few weeks ago my boss approached me about designing a customer retreat center at our green research facility (the one that still on the drawing table… literally). He was adamant about three things: that is should look modern, that we should use shipping containers, and that it showcased some of the green technology we design and install (green roofs and green walls). So the sketches began on paper and moved pretty quickly to digital models. Like most projects in China, we were immediately in ‘warp drive’ mode, meaning that the fasted things started to come together the better.

We decided to use containers laid side by side, joining the interior spaces, so it would not be so narrow. We also stacked and turned the containers 360 degrees meaning we had what looked like a “2 floor square doughnut”. The ‘doughnut hole’ would be left open to the sky and would be a showcase garden. We also worked in extremely strong horizontal lines, focusing not only on the containers but also wide protruding flat roofs and a huge open deck around a glass entry room, everything was very linear and it started to come together as a very nice building idea.

Shipping Container1

This is the basic form that started to take shape

Shipping Container

This is when we were problem solving all the interior spaces we wanted (note the stairs are going through a wall)

After working out several obvious interesting design problems, we had a pretty good basic idea of what the building is going to look like and we started thinking about materials, especially how we wanted the exterior to look. We ended up covering part in wood panels and leaving the shipping containers bare in other areas. The second floor exterior wall on that north side of the building will most likely sport a vertical green wall. Also, the first floor roof top is going to be entirely roof gardens and accessible to whomever may be staying at the retreat.

Shipping Container2

3D model of the building thus far (the landscaping is going to get a make over)

The second floor roof will also be green but will probably be covered in part with solar panels. The reason we are doing this is because solar panels absorb more energy when they are cooler and we are hoping to research this by using cooling the whole rooftop with a layer of soil and grass.


This project will be a main part of my work load until it is finished. As I mentioned at the beginging of this post, things move forward quickly in China. This building is due to be built (completed) by the end of the summer.


4 responses to “Shipping Container Project: Customer Retreat

  1. Pingback: Shipping Container Project: Construction Pt1 | Imagination builds creativity·

  2. Pingback: Completing a VR Project | Imagination builds creativity·

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