The humble shipping container changed the world sixty years ago when it revolutionized international trade. Now it's getting a second career in architecture, where it started out as a no-frills, low-cost option but is fast getting incorporated into luxury designs too.
There's no better example than the Joshua Tree Residence: a 2,100-square foot, three-bedroom home made of white shipping containers bursting out from a central point. Soon it will be nested in the desert just outside California's Joshua Tree National Park.
Commissioned by an unnamed -- but likely wealthy -- film producer, the structure is the final stages of the design phase, and construction will begin in 2018 on a private site less than a three-hour drive from Los Angeles.
The starburst-like design, by London architect and digital artist James Whitaker
, has a curious origin: "It all happened during a road trip that the client took in the Joshua Tree desert, where they own a 90-acre site," he said in a phone interview.
"One of the friends who was with them said 'Do you know what would look amazing here?', opened Pinterest and showed them a picture of Hechingen Studio, an office building made of containers that I had designed years earlier."
Design for Hechingen Studio, 2010. Credit: James Whitaker
It was a low-cost workplace in the Black Forest, Germany, just outside the town of Hechingen, created for a German advertising agency in 2010.
"Their idea was just to stack the containers on top of one another, like in a port. I thought it didn't really go together with a dynamic advertising agency, so that set me off thinking about utilizing the containers in a more intriguing way."
The Joshua residence containers will be welded together by the same metal workers who built "Mirage
," an art installation by Doug Aitken in the Coachella Valley that is essentially a ranch house composed of reflective mirrored surfaces, or "a very nice looking thing," as Whitaker put it.
"Once they cut the containers up and weld the whole thing together, all the normal steps will take place, like insulation and plaster boards," explained Whitaker.
For the interiors, the containers were put at an angle that allows for interesting views from the central section of the house: "There's been a lot of care taken in aligning the internal halls of the containers, so when you go into the house at the start of the weekend and nobody else is there yet you can have all the bedroom doors open and enjoy standing in the middle and looking out into the desert."
The complex will be powered by solar panels that will form the canopy of the parking area, and will include a wooden deck designed to blend with the surrounding rocky terrain.
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