When you think of sustainable building and green architecture, Houston probably isn’t the first city to come to mind. But a group of Houston-based artists have designed HIVE, a sustainable village and living work of art constructed from nearly 500 recycled shipping containers to be built in Houston. Inspired by a former artists colony founded by HIVE’s creative director, Nestor Topchy, HIVE will occupy a 6.5 acre lightly wooded plot of less than desirable land just outside the city center.

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HIVE will function like like a non-profit, partnering with local companies, creative professionals, and environmentalists. The community will be closed off to cars (with parking available around the perimeter), optimizing the space for pedestrians and cyclists. Buildings would be created entirely from recycled shipping containers, which are plentiful thanks to Houston’s Ship Channel. The containers would be outfitted with solar panels and other green technologies to protect the structures from hurricanes and drastic outside temperatures.

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“Our ideas are practical and they make sense,” said HIVE executive director Heidi Vaughn. “Our design will show the world that Houston is more than an assemblage of uninspired strip malls and houses with far more square footage than we really need.

The containers will be easily affordable for working artists and creative professionals. Rents will range from $300 to $500 a month, and purchase prices from $10,000 to $50,0000, depending on how built out the container is — many of the containers will be offered as just shells with electricity and plumbing to give tenants creative freedom in their design. A variety of tenant uses will be offered in the square 288-container perimeter, including office, studio, retail, restaurant, entertainment, and residential. The goal is to have everything a regular village has: a farmers’ market, a veterinarian clinic, a daycare, a health clinic, recycling centers, art studios, coffee shops and more.

The circular center of HIVE will be the “Inner Sanctuary.” These 148 containers will be reserved for creative and spiritual use, housing museums, galleries, performances space, and chapels. In the center, organic gardens and orchards will be planted, providing produce for the farmers’ market. A park with a pond and small waterfall will create a relaxing and open green space.

HIVE will be built in four stages (each corner being its own stage), with construction on the first starting this fall. Specifics on the eco-details are currently lacking, but it will be interesting to see how the village unfolds. The entire complex should be up and running by 2016.


While sustainable practices and green building are the norm is cities like New York and San Francisco, many American cities, like Houston, are not very green. When ambitious and innovative projects like HIVE take root in less eco-friendly areas, they can be a catalyst for more sustainable building and green design.

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