If one made a short list of the most important inventions of the last fifty or sixty years, shipping containers would be right up there near the top. It has revolutionized shipping and with that, global economies. But what is great for freight is not necessarily great for people. We have already looked at shipping container housing, but Designboom shows a Shipping container school that demonstrates so many of the issues and problems.
This kindergarten in Saitama, Japan has been renovated using a series of stacked shipping containers. designed by HIBINOSEKKEI + Youji no Shiro, a team of architects who specialize in the design and construction of children’s facilities, the building seeks to convey a larger message regarding environmental responsibility and adaptive reuse.
But when you look at the spaces inside, it is hard to see much shipping container at all; walls are gone, doors are gone, what's left? You don’t see much shipping container on the outside, either; just a few vestigial bits of corrugated steel here and there.
It is all very odd. You wouldn’t build a kindergarten out of old shipping containers, since they are covered in the most toxic of paints designed to last years on the ocean. You wouldn’t take new shipping containers because any argument about environmental responsibility is out the window; there is far more steel in them than is actually needed.
What we have ended up with here is something that is so detached from real shipping containers as to be little more than an allusion; this looks like a row of shipping containers, but where are the corner castings and the other fittings you see on every container? It’s all a container-like facade.
Looking at the plan becomes a game: find the shipping container. All those childcare rooms (3) might have one wall left over from a box. Building 4 might have a box at each end. Really, if these are shipping containers, then it is an incredible waste of energy building it this way. If they are not, then don’t talk about adaptive reuse.
It is a beautiful kindergarten, bright, airy and open. But seriously, it is no poster child for shipping container architecture.