Gallery: PREFAB FRIDAY: Container City in London


We’ve featured container-architecture here at Inhabitat before — from Lot-Ek’s altered and extruded prefab container houses, to Cargotecture’s Studio 320 and emergency housing. Clearly, we love the idea of using recycled industrial surplus as the starting point for prefab design, and now Urban Space Management has brought shipping containers to multi-unit, larger-scale housing with the introduction of its component-based, flexible, and widely applicable container construction system.

Container City, located at Trinity Buoy Wharf in the London Docklands, is one such example of a larger scale housing development comprised of recycled shipping containers. The London docklands development is composed of environmentally friendly work studios and live/work lofts stacked on top of each other to create a 5-story building. What’s particularily interesting about Container City is its scale and flexibility. Architect Nicholas Lacey and Buro Happold created a flexible design system that relies on component pieces instead of units. Instead of using a 1 container = 1 unit approach, their system relies on components in various permutations to create very livable, adaptable spaces. Aside from this Container City residential project, the system has been used in projects as diverse as classrooms, office spaces, residential units, retail spaces and even youth centres.

Containers as architecture are just one of the ways in which we can look at objects and find new uses to them. The modular nature of the containers, their adaptability, and the fact that they can be found in industrial surplus make them an ideal prefab material. The pictures show the adaptability of Nicholas Lacey’s Container City design, and well, how really cool looking it is. Love those colours.

+ Container City

+ Urban Space Management


or your inhabitat account below


  1. Markimark August 1, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    I saw one simular to Container City in Berlin, Germany.

  2. zakir abowath July 29, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    We are manufacturer of supplier of refurbished containerized modules. We like to develop this business and bring in innovation in design, quality and workmanship. We are looking for expert who have practical experience of working in this sector. Any body interested and having qualification and experience please write to email

  3. Ted Barns June 13, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    Would be interested in how the project mets the Building Code for Fire, Egress and Sound etc.

  4. Bondwalker June 12, 2007 at 12:19 am

    Cool idea!

  5. Ryan Bass June 11, 2007 at 12:36 pm


  6. Jasper June 9, 2007 at 9:48 pm

    NO WAY DO THESE THINGS LOOK BAD. LIke anything else, it all depends on who puts the paint on the canvas. There is a project in Redondo Beach, California by DeMaria Architects. Coolest looking container project to date in the US. Check out the link on LA Curbed

    California is way cool. I heard Pamela Anderson lives in this place. Time for a road trip!

  7. Bob Ellenberg June 9, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    I have a very different perspective on “hiding” them. If most of them are obviously containers, they represent the one vote the above writer refers to. That is because few will find them appealing and there will be far more resistance, NIMBY and zoning regulations to overcome. Use them in such a way that they simply look like well designed modern architecture where they will receive more market acceptance and there will be a lot more of them.

  8. Brian Jewett June 9, 2007 at 8:26 am

    To hide the fact that these units are made from shipping containers would be to kill off what is probably the most important environmental benefit of this type of recycled architecture. No mater how green your materials and techniques are, how much green energy you generate, and how many trees you plant, one building can have only so much direct effect on the environment. What this building does best, far better than most green building projects, is comunicate. The fact that these are obviously recycled shipping containers, and that they’re cool and hip and getting all this attention, has a truly global impact.

    In a lot of ways it’s like politics. As the average voter you have one vote. You do your best to use it responsibly and to good effect but if everyone around you votes for Bush your one vote doesn’t get you very far. However, if you become a candidate and run for office, your influence and effect on the world skyrockets. Now you influence thousands, millions or even billions of votes.

    A project like this really grabs peoples attention. It plants the seed in in peoples minds from which the whole society’s environmental action grows. To hide these containers would be comparable to giving this project a blow job and waving a soiled blue dress in front of the media. 😉

  9. bing June 8, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    Re: the “ghetto” look, it reminds me more of ‘Tokyo modern.’ I get that for many fashionistas, it’s definitely a cool look. For the rest of us, though, I wonder if it would be fairly inexpensive to just skin the containers to give them a different look, thereby using the industrial recycling without presenting an industrial feel.

    (By the way, I believe Il Delfino’s comments translate as “Sincere compliments on the idea. I had heard this spoken of and it’s incredible how it can be transformed from recycled materials.”)

    bing (fan of pre-fab and student of Italian)

  10. jim June 8, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    Looks like a low rent vertical trailer park.

  11. Asa June 8, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    I think its great
    However the Ghetto look will depend entirely on the residents maintainence and upkeep efforts
    The concept is however great in that it works well in practice, unlike some of the other prefab articles this one is REAL

  12. keith June 8, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    This project has been an amazing source of inspiration for my own home – zigloo domestique
    I am sure this kind of thinking will inspire designers to look beyond the traditional building techniques for projects great and small.
    -Kudos to UrbanSpace, Lot-eK and everyone else that are taking part in this revolution

  13. Anila June 8, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    I like the idea of using the container and I understand the entire “ghetto” look. That could probably be interupted with the addition of some greenery (trees, shrubs).

  14. Architecture Fan June 8, 2007 at 9:22 am

    I do not see these aging well. In a couple years, they will look like third-world ghettos.

  15. Il Delfino June 8, 2007 at 7:16 am

    Complimenti davvero per l’idea. Ne avevo già sentito parlare ed è incredibile come si può trasformare del materiale da riciclo.

  16. Ryan June 8, 2007 at 6:48 am

    The USM link is actually – though that other company could totally benefit from this trend if they thought about it.

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
Federated Media Publishing - Home