Images credit Lloyd Alter
Trade show and event booths are a difficult design problem. There are the quick and mobile display systems that fold up into barrels and all look pretty similar and pretty tacky; I used to do shows when I worked in prefab and could set up in under an hour with a prefab display. Then there are the site-built demountable booths that a lot of companies use, where I have seen crews working 24 hours straight putting together a complex 3D booth. There seemed to be nothing in between.
When I first saw Steelspace's empty box on Inhabitat I was not particularly impressed, but when I saw a more complex model in place at the Interior Design Show, I was. It combines the speed of the booth in a barrel with the wow factor of a site-built booth.
My initial reservations with the Steelspace were due to the fact that there was so little of it left. In Shipping Containers Being Used Everywhere for Everything I wrote:
There isn't much left of them. Shipping containers are monocoque construction and get much of their strength from the corrugated steel walls. Take those away and you have to do a lot of reinforcement.
But I missed the point completely. It may be expensive to reinforce the roof of a container where the walls have been removed; It might be cheaper to build a steel box from scratch. But the key virtue of using a container for something like a booth or a show is that there is a huge infrastructure of transport equipment, from trailers to cranes to forklifts to rail cars, that are designed to move them quickly and cheaply.
Pierre-Mathieu Roy, VP at Steel Space Productions, told me that they could drive that container into the exhibition hall, drop it and have it set up in an hour. (the Viking booth, with all of its equipment, takes two). He says that "Its main advantage is by far its mobility, which provides the freedom to reach new customers and cater to untapped markets."
Hydraulics do all the heavy lifting. In the trade show biz there is nothing worse than ending a 12 hour day on the show floor and then have to take the booth down. How wonderful it would have been, to have one of these where you just press a button and it folds up. More at Steel Space Productions.
This is not the first time containers have been used this way; see also:
More shipping containers with pushbutton walls:
Push-Button House by Adam Kalkin
Push-Button House: Now a Cafe, Coming to New York City
Bicycle For a Day & Adam Kalkin Turning Shipping Containers Into Afghani Bike Shop
Pop-Up Restaurant Pops Out of a Shipping Container