Do shipping container houses make sense for disaster relief housing?

Japanese architect Yatsutaka Yoshimura has designed what he calls the "ex-container project, in what Designboom says is a "response to calls for disaster relief housing after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan."

Every time we show one of these projects, I have the same questions. Like, why design it so that the entire side wall is missing? It's really an admission that a shipping container is a lousy dimension for humans so you have to turn it into a double-wide, figure out how to span twenty feet of length (a shipping container's roof normally spans the shorter dimension) and then how to connect them together. Especially in Japan, where people are used to living in smaller spaces, it makes little sense for emergency housing.

© yasutaka yoshimura architects

Then again, if you are not going to use standard shipping container specifications like corner castings so that they can be transported using standard container handling equipment, why bother? (There are slots in the corners that look like they might be designed for standard container spreaders and connectors, but these are definitely not standard boxes.)

© Yasutaka Yoshimura

For me it always comes back to the question: If you are building from scratch and just throwing it on a flatbed, why try and force a design to fit into a container-like shape and width? Why not design for people instead? It does make sense to hit the dimensions if you are shipping them around the world and taking advantage of the global handling system, but then, don't they have to be real containers? This appears to be neither one nor the other.

Lots more images in Designboom.

Tags: Japan | Shipping Containers