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Container Bar mixes sustainable architecture and alcohol


May 20, 2014

The Container Bar is based in Austin, Texas (Photo: Chris Perez)

The Container Bar is based in Austin, Texas (Photo: Chris Perez)

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Shipping container-based architecture has produced plenty of innovative structures already, but isn't generally associated with beer ... until now. The recently-opened Austin, Texas-based Container Bar brings sustainable architecture and alcoholic beverages together under one roof, and provides a fine example of recycled architectural design, too.

Designed by North Arrow Studio and Hendley Knowles Design Studio, the Container Bar features seven shipping containers in all. The containers are stacked atop each other two stories in height and arranged to form a central courtyard space with a bar in the middle, and an upper deck area with patio and outdoor seating. In all, the bar's indoor and outdoor areas measure a combined 196 sq m (2,115 sq ft) of floorspace.

Five of the seven containers serve as lounging spaces, and North Arrow Studio decorated the interiors with bright colors and materials, making use of mosaic tiles, MDF, recycled wood, paper collage, and wallpaper. The firm also cut several windows into the containers.

The Container Bar opened for business earlier this year but the build took over three years from start to finish, thanks in part to the Austin authorities' unfamiliarity with shipping container-based structures, and the resulting headache in gaining the necessary permits.

Should the need arise, the Container Bar can be disassembled and moved with ease – or far easier than a typical bricks and mortar bar, anyway.

Sources: North Arrow Studio, Dunlap

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

Three years to build a simple bar due to myopic, Soviet style bureaucrats! Fortunately the woman who owned the bar must have deep pockets, but she still has to be pissed. Probably should check the news to see if any bow-tied, horn rimmed, Austin building inspector met with a serious accident. Someone tries to do a decent thing and take these da*n containers off the streets, and is thwarted by red tape and stupidity. Every container rusting at every point in America should be shipped back to sender (China) on Xi Jinping's personal yuan.

Robert Walther

I think "sea can" architecture will prove to be a passing fad. Anything being made today will be demolished tomorrow to make room for something that is more attractive. Sea cans are pretty much only good for transport, or else something that doesn't matter, such as a chicken coop (and I could build a chicken coop cheaper than repurposing a sea can).


I read somewhere recently that, even allowing for free collection and delivery to docks, with pre-fab specifications it is cheaper to build new ones in China than to reuse the empty ones left all around the world. Considering they have to get the iron or steel etc. from somewhere, that is an ndictment of our modern 'throw-away' society.

The Skud

@ R. Walther - I wonder, how many times a day do you give any kind of thanks to the myopic, Soviet style bureaucrats who ensure that the vehicles you use operate in a consistantly safe manner, the buildings you use don't fall down around you or on you, or the food you eat is safe for human consumption? What would you suggest as an alternative? Maybe do away with all of the bureaucrats and retrain them as personal injury lawyers so that all of the liability suits, which would increase exponentially, can be taken care of?

As far as doing a decent thing and getting the containers off the street...they are made of steel and can be readily recycled. I will even go so far as to say that the system for recycling steel is more established and has far fewer unknown variables than the relatively new idea of converting these containers to habitalbe space.


I think that is a really neat idea. I think it is a good use of shipping containers. Since I don't drink alchol, I think a soda shop / ice cream shop would be even cooler, IMO.

I have seen some really nice designs / houses made from shipping containers, IMO.


Rt1583: You miss Robert's point. The "protection" is not optional. There is no choice allowed and no accountability if govt. bureaucracy fails or is counterproductive. This is not a free market mechanism. It is paranoia of some, forced on everyone. It is the antithesis of freedom. Debating the benefit of authoritarianism versus choice is the issue. Socialism was tried in the USSR for 74 years and partially rejected. Now some freedom is accepted, but the fear of the free market is still dominant. This lesson was not learned in the USSA (United States of Socialist America).

Don Duncan

@ Don Duncan - Authoritarianism versus choice (as it pertains to the subject of the article and the United States).

Authoritarianism - Laws, codes and standards (from the national level down to the local municipality level) in place and enforced to protect everybody involved.

Choice - There are approximately 200,000 home builders/remodelers in the United States. Without the laws, codes and standards provided and enforced by the authoritarian system there would be 200,000 builders/remodelers performing their work in any manner that they choose. Granted some would self regulate but too many would take advantage of the situation.

If you would argue that the builder/remodelers would form their own organization (such as the NAHB) in the absence of an authoritarian government, would this not be the same thing on a smaller scale? Is the NAHB not an authoritarian entity?

As far as no accountability for the government...that is a false statement/argument. Accountability is with the citizens, regarless of which level of government one is speaking of. If the citizens are so apathetic (which they are) that they choose not to react, with nothing more than a strongly worded complaint or name calling, to what their government does whose fault is it really? How apathetic must a citizenry be that, while complaining about their elected officials, they continually vote them back into office, to the point that there are representatives that have 20+ years of tenure?

An exclusively authoritarian (totalitarian) government can not exist for any appreciable length of time just the same as an exclusively free choice society can not exist for any appreciable length of time. Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, an equitable balance between the two will never happen. This in itself seems to be an apathetic statement but it is not and all one has to do to prove it is to look back through history. For all that we (humans) are arrogant enough to proclaim about ourselves we can't even build a society that can stand the test of time.

As to your belief (and I don't begrudge you that belief) that the United States has become or is becoming a socialist state, I put this challenge to you. Live your life entirely free of any product, service or support that has any type of government (local, state or national) financial backing. Live as an outlier to society and see what your quility of life is. Until you can do this you are just as apathetic, in your belief of the "USSA", as those who continually vote the same people back into office at each election.

For your benefit the following website looks to be a pretty comprehensive list of all the federally subsidized programs that you won't be able to take advantage of in your non-support of the "USSA" and more than likely touches on an unseen aspect of your life.



Watching some TV lately, This house reminds me of the TV show called Star crossed, where aliens from another planet are force to live in a container constructed housing development. Interesting, but feels cold to me. Maybe a warm weather habitat of sorts.

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