Theater Space Built From 28 Shipping Containers

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The outside of Kunsthalle shipping container building.

mompl / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I have always been a bit dubious about shipping containers as architectural elements; my dad used to make them and I grew up around them, and thought that the dimensions were all wrong for people; there was not much that you could do in a 7'-6" interior (or so I thought). Also, they are monocoque construction; the walls are the structure. So when you start taking the walls out and replacing them with beams, pretty soon you have little more than the idea of a shipping container. That was my first thought when I looked at Platoon Kunsthalle , an arts facility by Graft Architects in Seoul, Korea, built from 28 shipping containers.

The building uses the containers as a kind of building block, surrounding enclosing the space. The interiors of the containers are used for washrooms, offices and smaller uses.

Looking at the construction photos still raises a lot of questions.

Are they new containers, made specifically for the building? They sure look like it. This would negate the main benefit and feature of container structures, that they use an existing resource that is in oversupply.

And this is Korea, a net exporter of containers where they are NEVER in oversupply; like China, containers go one way out of this country and pile up in the net importer countries.

But it is a terrific looking prefabricated system that can be assembled quickly, even if they are custom built.

It does appear to be insulated (the plans show some thicker walls) and the section shows radiant heating in the floor, but I cannot see any mechanical spaces or rooftop equipment. Nor does there appear to be any ductwork, which given the limited height inside shipping containers, would be visible in the open spaces. So it would appear that there is no air conditioning. In Seoul? Perhaps the uses of the building don't need it:

PLATOON KUNSTHALLE provides showcases of underground artists, studio residencies and a fine selection of cutting-edge stage performances to introduce the energetic potential of subculture in Korea and Asia.

Ultimately it is a big steel tent of a performance space built out of steel boxes, and a very attractive one at that. But I am not yet convinced that the idea of building it out of shipping containers is much more than an aesthetic gesture or a really practical, economical and functional building system.