When it came to expanding his practice after years of working from home, Canadian architect Randy Bens knew that he didn’t want to venture too far away. Instead, the architect and his team decided that his own backyard would be perfect for a new office space and set about transforming an industrial shipping container into a contemporary and cozy 350-square-foot work studio.
Bens worked from home for over a decade for his New Westminster-based architecture firm, RB Architect. When the practice began to grow, it became obvious that the team needed more space. After looking into several building options and locations, the team decided to keep the practice close to home. More specifically, in the architect’s backyard.
The architect considered many ways to increase his office space, but finally decided on using a large weathered steel shipping container, previously used as a mining container. At 40 feet long, 11.5 feet wide and 9.5 feet high, the container offered the necessary space with the added benefit of the inherent durability that comes from its steel shell. Additionally, using a shipping container would allow the team to transport it to another location if they decide to relocate in the future.
The first step was to trim the container from 40 feet to 28 feet in order to easily fit it into the backyard space, where it was lowered into place by crane. The steel facade of the structure, which cantilevers over the concrete foundation by 7 feet, is clad in yellow cedar planks, which were also used on the windows and doors. The cedar will weather over time, giving the steel container a rustic, cabin-in-the-woods aesthetic.
The interior of the building was laid out to create a highly space-efficient office. There is an open studio space with a “floating” Douglas Fir desk that spans almost the entire length of the main wall, which is clad in birch plywood. There is also a kitchenette, washroom and network cabinet. The open layout allows for flexibility in creating small meeting spaces or areas for model making. The front end has a large glazed facade that floods the interior space with natural light.
Photography by Ema Peter via RB Architect