A massive, modular residential building has risen in Johannesburg, South Africa with aims of revitalizing Maboneng Precinct, an area that’s recently undergone a dramatic transformation from a site of urban decay to a thriving enclave for creatives. Having extensive experience in cargotecture, New York- and Naples-based architectural design studio LOT-EK was tapped to design the mixed-use building, which was completed last year. Dubbed Drivelines Studio, the building comprises a total of 140 shipping containers and includes affordable housing as well as ground-floor retail.

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view from distance of building made with green shipping containers

Located on a triangular site atop an existing single-story structure that used to house a car repair shop, Drivelines Studio includes seven floors with the top six levels comprising residential units, all of which are open-plan studios ranging in size from 300 square feet to 600 square feet and equipped with outdoor terraces with views of greenery below. The ground floor consists of retail along Albertina Sisulu Road, additional residential units in the rear and a private courtyard for residents with gardens and a pool.

courtyard with sculptural seating

living area with red couch and several windows

“Embracing the triangular geometry of the site, the building is conceived as a billboard where two separate volumes of residential units are hinged at the narrow east end of the lot, framing the social space of the open interior courtyard,”  the firm explained in a project statement. “As in a billboard, the building outer facades are straight and flush with the lot line while the facades in the inner courtyard are articulated by the staircases, the elevator tower and the bridges connecting all levels, and by the open circulation paths activated by the units spillover onto their outdoor space.”

Related: Repurposed shipping containers inject funky and unexpected color to a historic home renovation

dining area with light wood table and benches

green shipping container apartment complex lit from within at night

The upcycled shipping containers retain their original color and corrugated siding to reference their industrial past and to allude to the city’s reputation as the largest inland port in the world. The containers were stacked and cut on site with large diagonal cutouts for windows that give the building its distinctive, zigzagging facade pattern.


Photography by Dave Southwood via LOT-EK

people leaning on a rail and looking down below