Stackt, an Instant Shipping Container Shopping and Entertainment Spot, Is Built in Toronto

CC BY 2.0. Lloyd Alter

Sometimes shipping container architecture makes perfect sense.

Shipping containers may not make much sense for permanent housing, but they are terrific for temporary uses; they were designed to move, to be cheap to transport, to be stacked up to 16 high.

Stackit sign

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0This makes them perfect for an installation like Stackt in Toronto, where Matt Rubinoff has built a retail and entertainment complex out of 120 shipping containers.

closeup of shops stackt with condo

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

It has restaurants and bars, perfect for all those people in the condo without ovens across the street. Rubinoff tells The Star that it is meant to be " a hub for inspiration, a platform that shows value for space in a city that’s getting more and more expensive."

Lots of towers around it

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It's just about the last piece of land in the area that hasn't gone to condos, mainly because it is city-owned, the site of a very controversial road extension that was cancelled years ago. “I thought the community could use a space like this,” said Rubinoff of the new hub in the Toronto Star. “It’s not always that you see a 100,000-square-foot land in the middle of the city.”

Double wide retailer

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Most of the spaces in the complex are double-wides, because shipping containers are narrow and actually pretty awkward spaces for people, rather than freight. But a few retailers do squeeze in to single containers.

single wide store in stackt

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Everything above the first floor is pretty much empty boxes, there for looks rather than use, because of the exiting and access issues. But Treehugger favourites LGA Architects used them to make it much more interesting architecturally. According to Elsa Lam in Canadian Architect,

LGA designed the individual retail containers using a kit-of-parts strategy, with the same glass doors, sidelights, mechanical systems and amenities. Larger units are composed from multiple modules. Minimalist window frames and black metal hardware contrast with the roughness of the corrugated shipping container walls, the exterior of which have been finished in matte black.
closeup of shops

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It went together quickly and can come apart just as fast when the lease is up in 15 months; as Janna Levitt tells Elsa Lam, “You can’t take a building down and redeploy it, but you can do that with containers.” Rubinoff tells the National Post:

The modularity of the containers really helps out. Looking at the short-term lease that we have with the city, being able to construct quickly but also being able to pick the project up if need be was key, and that’s something that the containers give you the ability to do.
walking among containers

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Proof that sometimes shipping container architecture makes perfect sense.