Boy Scout Cabins Made Out Of Shipping Containers "Leave No Trace." Right.

shipping container housing gensler photo

Richard Hammond via Metropolis

I love the work of Cliff Kuang over at Fast Company, and we usually agree about design. But I loved the Aandeboom flatpack treehouse that he calls a design crime, and he likes these so-called shipping container cabins by Gensler on Catalina Island, titling his post "Leave No Trace: Boy Scouts Get Shipping-Container Cabins in California "

Where do I start? Perhaps with those monster two foot diameter sonotube foundations. Sure, you can take the shipping containers away, but those eight foundations leave one big honking concrete trace.

shipping container housing gensler photo exterior

And then there are the shipping containers, a bare shadow of their former selves, with the roof, a full side and one door removed, what is left? two steel walls, then lined with some unknown material and probably insulation because when the sun shines the steel is too hot to touch. And rubber flooring so that nobody will get slivers.

Oh, but Metropolis says it has natural ventilation. Of course it does; IT'S A TENT. With two solid sides. You can't even close it up for security, two of the doors and all of the windows are now canvas.

Sorry, Cliff, I prefer the "dark, flea-bitten cabins" of my childhood; at least they were the real thing, instead of a pastiche of a wall from here and a roof from there, doing its best to pretend it is anything but a shipping container, which even the architect Richard Hammond thought was "too much of a box." It is about time for architects to face up to the reality that shipping containers are designed for freight, not people, and by the time you adapt them to people there is barely any shipping container left.

And if you want to "leave no trace," lose the vestigial two walls of the container and just put up a tent. They don't need foundations.

So who is calling what a design crime?

flatpack treehouse

And I STILL think this Flatpack Treehouse is a Dutch Treat.

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