5 Ways Shipping Containers Are Used That Might Surprise You


Shipping containers are designed for shipping and storing goods. They’re durable and reusable, yet they’re often discarded when they reach their destination. Luckily, creative minds from all over the world have devised all kinds of ways to use shipping containers. Here are five ways they’ve been used that might surprise you!

1. Ice Cream Factory

Joy Ice Cream operates a manufacturing plant out of a shipping container in Auckland, New Zealand. Royal Wolf provided the 40-foot container and modified it into a portable ice cream factory to supply Joy’s retail selling “Pods”, located around the city.

Joy describes the factory as a “hub” for its business. Because its design makes it highly portable, it is the perfect method for moving Joy Ice Cream overseas–they can arrive in a city and start operating in a week, according to co-founder James Coddington.

“We want to replicate these micro factories and ship them to other parts of the world so that we have control over our product,” he said. “We want people to experience the world’s best ice cream no matter where they are around the world.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s being sold on street corners in Auckland, Sydney or New York, we know it will taste the same because we have control over the manufacturing process and we control the mix.”

2. Truck Maintenance Shop

Royal Wolf also supplied a large gold mining operation with a large, all weather maintenance workshop made from shipping containers. The workshop would be designed to service the trucks used on-site, with enough space for the largest dump trucks. Therefore, it needed to be 15 metres in height with a 500 square metre footprint, but also relocatable, transportable, and easily assembled. The facility also needed to have storage, workshop, training, and office spaces.

The containers were modified first, and by July 2013, the facility was installed and fully operational. Its design ensured it would be able to be successfully established even in remote locations. This was made possible by its primary materials: shipping containers!

3. Sculpture

Shipping Container Sculpture

Artists have even used shipping containers to make sculptures!

There are many examples throughout the world where shipping containers can be turned into houses, offices, entertainment venues, and even shopping malls. Each of these ventures requires creativity, but none more than it takes to look at a shipping container and envisage it as art!

Shipping container sculptures exist throughout the world. A team of artists in Rotterdam disassembled, folded, and twisted a shipping container into an origami-like sculpture. In Japan’s Yamashita Park, shipping containers were stacked on their corners to create a precarious-looking sculpture. Denver is home to “Trade Deficit”, a series of shipping container sculptures by Joseph Riche.

However, our favorite shipping container sculpture has to be the work of Swedish artist Michael Johansson. He uses shipping containers as the building blocks for his sculptures, along with other recycled materials. These can include garbage bins, wood pallets, cars, tractors, trailers, refrigerators, and motor homes.

The sculpture of Johansson’s that we like the best is called “Self Contained”. It was part of a group exhibit called “Umedalan Skulptur”, and was created using seven shipping containers of various sizes, a car, a small motor home, and wooden pallets, among other materials.

4. Mobile Urban Garden

Shipping containers make lots of things possible. For instance, it allows us to use the words “mobile” and “urban” to describe a garden in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district!

Prinzessinnengarten is a not-for-profit, open organic garden that is designed to promote sustainable living. The site where it currently resides had been deserted for over 50 years, until Nomadic Green started the garden there in 2009.

Marco Clausen collaborated with Robert Shaw to create Prinzessinengarten in a 20,000-foot space with an adjoining cafe-restaurant made from a recycled shipping container! It sells fresh food from the garden’s produce, providing visitors with the opportunity to enjoy the whole life cycle of the food they’re eating. Vegetables and other plants are grown in rice bags, plastic crates, and milk containers to facilitate the operation’s mobility. Obviously, the shipping container cafe is also extremely portable by nature.

The best part about the cafe is that anyone can eat there for half price! All you need to do is volunteer your time in the garden. In addition to the garden and the cafe, there is a wooden ready-made library, a cute plant shop that sells live plants, and a children’s playhouse.

5. Sochi Olympics Pavilion

Sochi Olympics

The Sochi Olympics made use of shipping containers in the form of Samsung’s Galaxy Studios.

Even if you caught most of the 2014 Winter Olympics, you might be surprised to learn that shipping containers helped make the event possible! Samsung created Galaxy Studios from shipping containers. The pavilion featured information booths, display walls, and stages for Samsung performances and presentations.

The building was made up of 16 recycled shipping containers that were sourced from all over Russia, refurbished, and painted in bright colors. The ends of each container were fitted with full-sized glass windows to let in plenty of natural light.

Once they were restored, the containers traveled to 15 Russian cities to “collect everyone’s wishes from town to town,” while also showing off the possibilities of sustainable architecture. Then, they were brought to Sochi and assembled on-site. They were stacked to form Galaxy Studios’ outer wall, and bottom level containers were staggered to include doors.

After the Olympics, the container building was broken down and the containers were donated to a local educational facility to be reused yet again. It was an incredible project, and its components are going toward an incredible cause!

Which of these ways that shipping containers are used was most surprising to you?

Let us know your thoughts!

Images courtesy of Luke Price, Jennifer Murawski, and Republic of Korea