Container architecture is a trendy modality that is gaining traction. When driven to consider this motif strictly by ‘low budget’ the results can be disasterous. There are emerging examples of how this design specialty can add an edgy vibe in a low density environment, even in a ‘quasi urban’ setting.
Ideally, infill development has design details that contribute to a neighborhood’s economic vitality. Examples include high quality materials, permanent landscaping, creative and innovative use of light, color, and form; massing which is compatible with the existing streetscape, and thoughtful provisions for such mundance necessities as utilities, trash, security, and ‘eyes on the street’ at all hours.
Using Containers in architecture is a new and evolving motif that can in theory achieve desired goals, but the highest degree of design experience talent and resources are required to do so with this modality as compared to more conventional development. A well thought out design whether using containers or not adds stability, visual appeal, economic vitality and beauty in façade and landscape treatment.
Here is an example of a container ‘restaurant’ structure that is in downtown Carlsbad. In it’s context, I believe this has been a successful installation. Part of the story is that the container motif helped avoid any excavation on this former gas station occupied parcel with serious ground contamination that prevented excavation. Landscape consisted of stabilized decomposed granite and artificial turf, with wrought iron fencing. There are probably other examples of how this design challenge has been ‘pulled off ‘ – along with I’m afraid many examples of attempts which have been less than successful.
For an example of what would be a visual disaster in a similar urban location, here is a different example of a ‘container art gallery’. While this project has won design awards – it works only in its suburban setting as a temporary installation space. In an urban setting it would have been a visual disaster. The interiors are lovely – but this composition is not so friendly on the exterior. More here: http://aiasf.org/programs/competition/design-awards/2012/triskelion/