Does Shipping Container Architecture Make Sense? Sometimes

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©. Marcel van der Burg via Designboom

It is a question I keep asking: Does shipping container architecture make sense? Over the years I have concluded that it really doesn't, but the exception proves the rule.

One of those exceptions might be this bus station in the Netherlands, shown on Designboom. Here, the shipping containers are really not doing anything at all except being a dramatic sign; except for a washroom built into the bottom of the tower, they are empty. The spaces at the bottom are container-shaped but are really structural frames built to support the boxes. One container has its floor removed to create a double height space so at least the volume of that one is serving some function.

corner closeup

© Marcel van der Burg via DesignboomYet the containers form an iconic, highly visible image of station, with the clock tower on top. It's a temporary structure (you can see the clever connections on the corner castings of the container). It's part of " a campaign entitled ‘prettig wachten’, (‘pleasant waiting’), a scheme which attempts to make the time spent more comfortable and less stressful for travelers."

The temporary project is an arrangement of shipping containers, resulting in an ambiguous, yet powerful, façade. three horizontal volumes are suspended, together forming a roof. One container houses programs specific to the site, another is used for storage, while the third is open at the bottom forming a double height space for the transparent enclosed waiting area. the fourth larger one is placed vertically. The resulting tower stands twelve meters tall complete with a clock and a weathervane, which alludes to the local area’s heritage. A gilded chicken replaces the typical rooster, referencing Barneveld’s reputation as the ‘egg capital’ of the Netherlands.

They have used the shipping containers as a giant sign, providing shelter in a clever and humorous way. They don't pretend that they are doing anything else. That makes sense.