Seven Creative Uses of Cargo Containers

Shipping containers are great for their primary purpose: Holding cargo while it moves from point A to point B. But they’re also great for a number of other uses. Here’s a look at some of the most creative ones.

Award winning container art studio by Maziar Behrooz Architecture
Award winning container art studio by Maziar Behrooz Architecture

1. Art Studio

Owing to their relative cheapness and flexible sizing, cargo-container structures have been gaining in popularity. One surprising example is an art studio made by Maziar Behrooz Architecture in New York. It’s literally a creative space, with a work area on the upper floor and a display area on the ground floor. The containers cost $5,000 total, and the building has 900 square feet of space.

2. Home

Cargo-container homes are another way to make a permanent structure cheaply, quickly, and with flexible options. For instance, in Washington, DC’s Brookland area, an apartment complex made up of shipping containers provides 24 units of housing. Meanwhile, a standalone home in Flagstaff, Arizona sports 2,000 square feet of space and was built in under a year.

3. Furniture Store

One furniture store in São Paola, Brazil needed a low-cost option for displaying its goods. As you might have guessed, the solution was to build their display shop out of shipping containers. According to the writer Andrew Michler, they are “stacked two stories high and painted fluorescent colors,” giving the shop an eye-catching look without breaking the bank.

Container recording studio by John Sayers Productions
Container recording studio by John Sayers Productions

4. Band Rehearsal Space/Recording Studio

Some bands and individual musicians have made use of shipping containers for both rehearsal space and recording their music. For instance, one writer notes that shipping-container rehearsal spaces are common in Norway, while in Australia, a specialist studio builder has created a recording studio out of shipping containers.

5. Gardening Container

Shipping containers can even help nurture life. One company, Growtainer, has begun making heavily modified containers designed to grow many different plants. The containers also have education and research applications, as shown by Texas A&M Agrilife Research Center’s use of the containers.

6. Nomadic Museum

Museums have a static reputation: They’re a place to gather notable items and keep them in one stable place. Not so with the Nomadic Museum, which has built a mobile display platform for the Ashes and Snow exhibit by photographer Gregory Colbert. The museum’s design received widespread praise, as its minimalist interior allowed for the art to take center stage.

Shipping containers become mobile mini theaters
Shipping containers become mobile mini theaters.

7. Movie Theater

In New York in 2011, a short-film screening event took place in miniature theaters made from used shipping containers. The so-called “screening pods” had 18 seats each and allowed for screenings of eight short films as part of USA Network’s Character Project. The mini-theaters complemented the nature of the event, per writer Angela Wadcutter, which focused on films about “interesting characters and personalities.”

From homes to art studios to movie theaters, the uses of shipping containers are only limited by people’s imaginations. As these examples show, we haven’t hit those limits yet.