Phoenix, AZ Shipping Container: The Revival of Shipping Cargo Units

In 1937, Malcolm McLean, a young trucker, was delivering loads of cotton to a port in Hoboken, New Jersey. As the young trucker watched the workers slowly transport his boxes to the ship by hand, he thought there was a better way to do it.

As it turns out, there is a better way to transport goods: a big metal container that could be disconnected from the transport truck, and it can be loaded into the ship. Twenty years after the eventful night, McLean was ready to put his idea into reality and show it to the world. He packed an old war tanker with 58 trailer cargo vans and changed the transport industry forever.

Little did this simple trucker know that the shipping cargo unit or intermodal container, as what modern people in the industry are calling it nowadays, would not only revolutionize the industry by minimizing the shipping cost but it also gives these “vans” a second life through modern architecture. From New York, Dallas, Phoenix to Los Angeles, this type of architectural trend is starting to gain popularity among homeowners and business people.

Starting to become a thing

Sturdy, easy to transport and affordable, these container cargoes found another use outside of shipping port as a portable showcase in trade fairs or conventions. But the first indication that people wanted to make it a building material for a comfortable home or office space came from a 1987 patent application.

Seven years later, a futurist guru by the name of Stuart Brand of Whole Earth Catalog, a popular counterculture magazine, added to their profile his book “How Buildings Learn,” which Brand wrote inside a converted cargo container.

But the real father of modern shipping container architecture is an American architect by the name of Adam Kalkin, whose work spans orphanages and housing units in South Africa to luxurious homes in the United States and Europe. Cargo vans are usually used in an architectures’ cost-efficient widgets in a quantitative process.

To find out more about the history of shipping container architecture, check out for more information.

That is okay, important and very necessary. But the result is predictably dull, monotonous and boring. Most contractors and architects do projects that are enjoyable and fun for them. This sense of enjoyment and fun is evident in most of their designs, which is usually fully-furnished and modern looking.

Adam Kalkin’s 2003, 12 Container House project is still considered as one of the most functional and elegant examples of shipping container architecture. According to Adam Kalkin, this kind of designs has become a thing in today’s modern world, so now you do not have to overcome people’s disbelief when you are doing a new project.

 Every design is another opportunity to establish the future of this type of architecture. Today, the industry is joining hand-in-hand with modern technology and hardcore environmental activists.

Affordable and stylish

The make-it-as-you-go nature of this kind of building design has made people who got it right early on the popularity that they deserve. Among these people who use this type of architectural designs is Peter DeMaria and his Redondo Beach House that was created in 2006.

It is the first two-story container building to comply with Southern California’s National Building Code. Redondo Beach House was designed to combine high-quality building materials with heavy gauge steel, while still being affordable for the masses.

The house spearheaded a whole movement in the industry and people are now witnessing the impact with a lot of projects using recycled shipping cargo units. These materials are ubiquitous, resistant to most building threats like mold, fire and termites, as well as very affordable.

And the most essential feature of this material? It is already fabricated. Usually, creative look for materials that can reinvent the architectural wheel, but we are already surrounded by ingenious and innovative solutions in an industry that is non-architecture related.

The wow factors

Shipping cargo units have different styles and costs. Some of them are quite affordable, Eco-friendly and configurable. Take for, example the prefabricated project created by Wisconsin-based company, Mods International. They are selling a fully-functional and fully-ready, 160-footer, no-frills container houses on Amazon for a more or less $20,000.

Other people go for the wow factor, like the Joshua Tree Residence, a beautiful 2,100-square-foot luxurious homemade from white shipping cargo vans bursting out from a central point. It was built just outside Joshua Tree National Park in 2018.

The designer of the residence, a London based architect, named James Whitaker, thinks that containers can offer quality and enjoyable challenge. Designers will be given a standard and rigorous module that you can work with, and you will need to make it work, as well as make it enjoyable. They are basically the width of a bed, so it is very challenging to see if you can create an exciting space if you have a limitation.

Click here to know more about how to make cargo homes.

Pushing all the envelopes

Shipping cargo vans remain a prevalent choice for temporary or emergency accommodation, as well as student housing. An example of this Urban Rigger by BjarkeIngels in Copenhagen, Denmark. Not only that, but this material is also suitable for schools, swimming pools, retail units and greenhouses.

But what about making a whole stadium made of shipping cargo vans? Madrid, Spain’s Fenwick Iribarren Architects, is planning to build a full stadium out of a cargo van for 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. It will be made out of at least a thousand container vans.

Not only that, it will cost half as much as a stadium made from traditional materials. The good news is, the structure can be dismantled once the tournament is over. It means that after the event, you can disassemble it and ship it to the next location. It will solve the problems that most countries who are hosting significant sporting events like the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup are facing, spending millions of dollars building a stadium that will be rarely used. It is the best solution because not only it is very strong, sturdy, Eco-friendly (since it is made from recycled container vans), it is also way cheaper and easier to build. Instead of leaving behind a run-down area after an event, you can create ten to twenty smaller sporting event venue, and the place can still be used as a real estate land after you dismantled the structure.