Shanghai farm's shipping container visitor center thinks a little bigger


January 7, 2013

The shipping container visitor center at Tony's Farm near Shanghai (Photo: Bartosz Kolonko/Playze)

The shipping container visitor center at Tony's Farm near Shanghai (Photo: Bartosz Kolonko/Playze)

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With Tony's Farm, international architecture studio Playze has done its bit for the recycled-shipping-container-as-architecture movement. The organic farm's new building is toward the more ambitious end of the scale, incorporating numerous recycled containers, cut up and configured to create remarkably light, open interiors.

ArchDaily reports that the construction, completed in 2011, includes office space, a visitor reception and lobby, which will also serve hotel rooms also planned for the farm. The building appears to add a new frontage to older warehouse space where farm produce is packed.

Judging by the future plans for the hotel, the farm is certainly aiming to cash in on an "eco" theme. Hotel residents will apparently be taken to hotel rooms, which will be scattered across the entire farm, via electric car. Whether these will be charged by on-site renewable sources or by plugging into China's coal-reliant mains power remains to be seen.

As for the building itself, as Treehugger's Lloyd Alter points out, the extent of work done to the shipping containers, most of which have had several sides, tops or bottoms removed to create joined-up interior spaces, inevitably reduces what environmental benefit there may have been from using shipping containers in the first place. On the other hand, judging by details such as the use of buried decorative lighting around the building's exterior, this is a building designed for the long term. Though the work done on the containers is undeniably extensive, they still make up much of the building's fabric.

Also in its favor is that, presumably, the builders didn't have to go far to find eligible containers. Shanghai has been the world's busiest container port since 2010.

Source: Playze, via Arch Daily

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life. All articles by James Holloway

I've always appreciated the repurposing of shipping containers as buildings, but until now I've never quite liked how most turn out. This is an exception.

Fahrenheit 451

Thinking neither in nor out, but with the box!

Layne Nelson

i like the idea, but what's the cost per sq. ft.?


What I notice about many container designs is that they cut away much of the wall and floor structures. I think they need to utilise them better than cutting major parts away (generally for windows or "open space"). Seems that stacking them in novel ways can keep their integrity and utilise most walls, have open spaces in between them and have many private balconies outside.

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