Vancouver apartment block looks like a stack of shipping containers

Heatley condo in Strathcona
CC BY 2.0 Lloyd Alter

I mean, shipping containers are hot. But does this kind of shipping container architecture make sense?

A few years ago we wrote that Shipping container architecture is so trendy in China that they are making knockoffs. Now fake shipping containers have come to North America; On the way to a meeting in Vancouver’s Strathcona district up near the container port, I was shocked to see what I thought was the biggest container housing project ever, except it’s not; it’s a building designed to look like a big stack of containers.

Heatley rendering of project© gBL architects

The Heatley in Strathcona Village was designed by gBL Architects in about 2014 and completed last year; a Vancouver magazine describes them as “an award-winning firm known for its sustainable practices and a proud member of the Canada Green Building Council.”

Seeking an aesthetic to fit in with Strathcona’s heritage, gBL looked to Port Metro Vancouver as inspiration. The bold colours and forms of the harbour’s cranes and container docks are evident in the project’s design, which gives a nod to stacked shipping containers.

Closer rendering of Heatley© gBL architects

Real estate agents note: “Designed with an eye towards the shipping industry, these 283 condo homes incorporate harbour-container inspired structures to showcase a “luxury industrial” aesthetic.”

Detail of HeatleyLloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

I wish I had been able to stop for longer and take more photos, but twitter came to the rescue with a shot of the east end of the building.


There is some logic to the design; everyone thinks that shipping containers are cool, but they are not designed for people to live in. So why not turn them into wallpaper? They have such a strong aesthetic. We have often wondered if shipping container architecture makes sense, but is this really shipping container architecture? What do you think?


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