Boxpark is a new shopping mall built from standard-sized recycled shipping containers. Located in London's ultra-hip east end, the shops are achingly trendy, with the majority selling tee-shirts, shoes and some jeans. All with attitude, of course.
The container village is painted black and white and contains 60 containers which are stacked two stories high and five rows wide. It is all a pop-up, easily plunked down.
Upstairs it is more spread out. There are restaurants with outside benches and tables.
There is a mix of retail stores and some healthy restaurants. The developer says that he wants to give a chance to small up and coming businesses which could not normally afford high rents, so they can get a start. So, in addition to a concept store selling ethically-sourced gifts from Amnesty International, there is also Art Against Knives, which seeks to reduce knife crime through art.
The restaurants are small-ish, with most having only a few other locations in town. As the developer explains: “The reality is, it’s very hard for small brands to be able to afford long leases and it’s difficult sometimes for them to get beyond the financial covenants required for big shopping centres."
However there are some big ones in there too: Levi's, Puma, Calvin Klein and Nike all have shops. But no matter how big or little the brand, no one is allowed to have anything on the outside of the store, other than their name. This does democratize the concept in quite a surprising way, visually.
The interiors are all different. Some stores are two and three containers wide; most are only one. Puma (above) has done a particularly sleek and nice looking job in theirs. Others are the standard: railings with tee-shirts and quite a few shoe shops.
Not everyone is impressed with the concept. One critic called it "perhaps one of the least imaginative uses of the shipping container realised to date. The ground floor frontage presents a relentless strip mall of identikit units, an endless rack of uninviting 12 x 2.3m dead-end corridors, the upper level only relieved somewhat by occasional picnic tables."pothole gardener visits...
The owner plans to do a few more around town, if this one is a success. Which it probably will be, given all the local ad agencies and media businesses with employees and money to spend.