i have always lived near a vast body of water and cannot imagine feeling comfortable as an inlander. the proximity of sea creates a horizon of freedom for me even at times of permanence. even a flowing river gives an impression of movement and direction in the solidity of everyday life. my relationship with water might explain the lack of affection i feel for other natural elements (on the assumption that we only have a certain amount of affective feelings to give, which is prolly faulty...); i desire very little green around me, but the reflecting gleam of h2o is essential.
despite my adoration of the ocean and although i used to sail as a kid, i don't find sailboats or other sea vessels all that interesting. i actually fear being afloat these days. (overall, i've turned into quite a wuss as i age...) nevertheless, i adore walking along the water and the visual stimuli offered by the sea. many of my home cities have been ports. strolling in the docklands and driving past harbors are very much part of my urban experience. the aesthetic of cranes and crates is as much a part of the texture of a city as are graffiti and concrete walls. all essential for me.
my fascination with shipping containers started at an early age when i pointed out that giant lego was stocked near the ruissalo island, a nature conservation area in turku. obviously, i was referring to the high piles of containers in the port of turku. i regarded them a heap of magnificent utilitarian building blocks just waiting to be arranged and rearranged according to the whims of a great lego builder. needless to say, i really really loved lego as a kid.
i still greet shores with shipping containers with aesthetic pleasure. the limited variety in stacking and colors create a soothing pattern of repetition. therefore, a dodgy shipping yard is an environment of marvel and fascinates me endlessly. to realize there are others who share my passion and actually create something with the giant lego has been exciting beyond belief.
seeing a book of lot-ek ("low tech") works for the first time actually produced a yelp on my part. embarrassing, sure, but oh, so amazing. the creative, italian originating architectural duo work from nyc and use unexpected materials to create living and working spaces. although a small firm, they've created a credible reputation for art projects – one of which took place in finland during snow show in 2004 (in collaboration with a thai artist friend, phathaiwat "top" changtrakul).
moreover, architect adam kalkin creates impressive, affordable and luxurious beyond sensibility living solutions from shipping containers. some of his works are presented here as a slide show. although his suggestions of combining traditional wooden housing with the rough'n'rumble of steel might be too underlining a contrast for some – and it certainly is for me – it definitely displays the possibilities there are with reusing these magnificent boxes.
one of my favorite projects is commissioned by the bag company freitag. they built a flagship store in zürich from 17 shipping containers. known for their tarpaulin bags and reused materials, the building is logical continuation on their part and a beautiful example of eco-architecture that uses familiar elements in an awe-inspiring way. additionally it offers the possibility of relocation and restoration of the site after the removal of the building.
the idea that even buildings can be based on ideals of recycling impresses me tremendously. the ultimate diy-project of creating a semi-permanent living-space and a home from steel containers feels relevant at this time of nomadic lifestyles. it could even offer a solution for those in desperate need of shelter – although i doubt creating material shelters for refugees or the poor comes down to lack of feasible residential solutions because slum issues (i.e. poverty) are still being "solved" by tearing down shantytowns and burning the material used for building shacks (i.e. securing poverty). but if there was a will, could this be the way?
what do you think? are shipping containers ugly bulk or fascinating material? would you consider living in such a house?