Monday, 22 June 2009

Container architecture – hardly inhumane, say architects [update 2]


412077688_c340118112 Lawyer Peter Williams is a piece of work. He has that uniquely lawlerly ability to talk in detail, colourfully and at length on subjects he knows precisely nothing about.

This morning he was talking volubly about the "inhumanity" of using shipping containers to house criminals.

They’re not designed for it, says Peter.

They’re not fit for humans, says Peter.

No one could live in them, says Peter:

If the ordinary person applied to the local council for a permit to live in a shipping container I don't think for a moment that they'd have any chance of that being granted. And why? Because it lacks sanitation, it lacks warmth, it's not waterproof, it's not adequate, it's not designed for human habitation . . .

container5 Really?! Well here’s at least ten international architects who’d call you a liar, Peter. Here’s another. And another. Here’s a good source on shipping containers used for architectural purposes: the Shipping Container Architecture Information Database. Here’s an article on the popularity of shipping containers, from disaster-relief housing to a media school. “Costing around $1,500 to $2,000,” says the article in The Architect's Newspaper, “they are economical, structural, mobile, and increasingly more aesthetic ways to design.” And here’s a couple of locals who like them. The one pictured above and at right is Ross Stevens’s Wellington house. (Check out a slide show here.) is an industrial design lecturer at Victoria University. He’s very happy about his house.lt_mdu1

Here’s an architectural firm who specialises in the things (pictures right). They call themselves Lo-Tek.

The place pictured below is a hotel in Uxbridge, West London made out of shipping containers – which is about as attractive as Uxbridge gets. Punters seem to like it. More hotels made of shipping containers are planned to help accommodate visitors to the 2012 London Olympics.

lt_mdu3 Which just goes to show, once again, how little Mr Williams needs to know before opening his mouth. It seems to me he’s lied for a living for so long, he’s forgotten what facts even look like.

Peter, get a life. Get some knowledge. Try learning a little something, just once, before opening your bloody mouth and letting your wind blow your tongue around.

And consider that even in the unlikely case that you were correct – which must be a very rare occurrence – the discomfort of living in a container cell is still a whole lot safer than sharing a double bunk room with a twenty-stone prisoner called Bubba.


UPDATE 1: Audrey Young agrees.

I have two words about the fuss over putting prisoners in converted containers - Wai Iti.
It is a rustically beautiful beachside retreat in north Taranaki. As well as having classic kiwi baches dotted on hills overlooking the Tasman sea, the old camping ground has a whole lot of extremely pleasant cabins or "compartments" as they are called, converted from old shipping containers. . .
They are lined. They have windows cut into them and decks attached to them for G and T at sunset. And people pay to stay in them. They are very cute and a testament to Kiwi ingenuity and , I'm sure many people would think, far too good for prisoners. . .
What is instrinsically "inhumane" about shipping containers?


  1. Yep... the 'container' home in Wellington has always appealed.

  2. Yes, of course, the crims will be living in places like these. Bloody holiday camps, those prisons.

  3. Yeah. Too good for 'em. Should save money and put 'em in recycled LDs instead. The really naughty crims would get the LD units with the cut aways (you know, the that nest near the hull or bow of the aircraft).


  4. Stacking them as per the last picture is a good idea. If we can stack them high enough a Muslim might then be tempted to fly his aeroplane into the stack, thus killing two birds with one stone.

  5. Paul, I wasn't suggesting they could have holiday camps, just that so peremptorily dismissing the idea of container housing as "inhumane" is ignorant.

    I figure you want to see some "container prisons," you can visit Whale Oil. No need for me to reinvent the wheel either. :-)

  6. Why restrict them to prisons? I think they'd make ideal offices for bureaucrats and MPs.

  7. Wow! Fabulous. We've often talked about building a house in the bush using containers and this has given us a boost, especially after having so many people turn their noses up at the idea.

  8. Inhumane? Seems to me that what's urgently needed in our prison system is a dose of inhumanity--since a lot of the pondscum behind bars don't qualify as humanity in the first place.
    And yes, Paul for a lot of repeat offenders, prisons are holiday camps. They eat better and have better heating and entertainment facilities on the inside.
    Plug the leak in your heart.

  9. Fielding motor camp has them as cabins and they are a few years old now. Perfectly adequate.


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