left corner left corner
China Daily Website

Container gets flashy makeover

Updated: 2012-08-27 07:48
By Tan Zongyang ( China Daily)

Young designers create comfortable trailer from recycled shipping box

What can you do with old shipping containers, the rectangular iron boxes you see piled high in ports worldwide?

Instead of turning them into scrap metal, a group of young Chinese designers got the ecologically friendly idea of converting one into a trailer cabin.

On Aug 18, three young men and a woman hit the road for a 15-day trip from Beijing to Sichuan province in the trailer they designed.

Container gets flashy makeover

An old shipping container that was transformed into a living space goes on show at 798 Art Zone in Beijing. Photo Provided to China Daily

"The inspiration came from the simple idea that innovation can make waste material valuable," said Wang Yu of Leisure and Tourism Design, a Beijing-based website that launched the project.

"A standard container can be used for only seven years - then it gets scrapped. We hope the project will increase public awareness that those old containers can be put to good use as building materials."

China is the world's largest maker of shipping containers, producing about 3.2 million a year, or 90 percent of global production, according to China Container Industry Association.

Every year, 5 percent of containers in China are scrapped, according to the association.

In some Western countries, an architectural trend is emerging of using old shipping containers to make warehouses, apartments, offices and even hotels.

A moving cabin

Wang said that seven post-1980 generation designers were recruited from various cities for a workshop in July that would explore design concepts for renovating a container in Dalian, a port city in Liaoning province.

The trailer was made within a month after the designers worked together with engineers at Dalian CIMC Logistics Equipment Co, a container manufacturer and a main sponsor of the project.

Container gets flashy makeover

The inside of the trailer. Photo Provided to China Daily

The vehicle debuted at a recreational-vehicle exhibition at Beijing's National Agriculture Exhibition Center this month, and with its unique appearance, it soon came under the media spotlight.

The container - 6 meters long, 2.4 meters wide and 2.9 meters high - has large panels cut away from both sides and at the rear. These serve as entrances to the cabin and turn the interior into large, semi-open-air platforms.

External flaps close these gaps when the trailer is in motion or more privacy is wanted.

It is painted white and has several circular glass windows, like submarine portholes. Occupants can climb through a hole in the ceiling to view the scenery from its flat roof.

Four beds are installed inside in an upper level, and a small room serves as a bathroom and shower. Storage batteries provide electricity.

"In addition to the secondhand container, we used lots of recyclable materials," said Mo Keli, a designer at Tonghe Shanzhi Landscape Design in Beijing who supervised the workshop.

She said the tables and chairs inside were made from old steel barrels. Old hemp rope was woven into nets to hold things in place when the trailer is moving.

"Innovative design was used to turn the confined space into a comfortable living area," Mo said. " It wasn't easy, but we succeeded."

Because of time and budget constraints, Mo said, some ecologically friendly ideas - such as fitting the container with solar panels to power lights and recycling rainwater for daily use - could not be realized. But they will be used in the next container they renovate, she said.

Mo said she hopes the project will inspire people to explore more ways of reusing containers.

Trailer goes on tour

Four people - three of them designers - began touring China in the trailer on Aug 18. They are scheduled to arrive in Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan province, at the end of the month, after passing through six provinces and traveling 3,500 kilometers.

Zhang Zheyangping, one of the designers on the tour, said living in the steel box is wonderful - they can stay anywhere they can park along the road.

After spending the first night of the trip in a canyon in Central China's Henan province, he said that sleeping in the room is much more comfortable than he thought.

"It's like moving my home out into the wild," he said.