A Crisis of Conscience and Containers

In the wake up the economic, housing, and automaker crises, we find ourselves in he midst of a new global dilemma — enter: The Shipping Container Crisis. Yes, The Shipping Container Crisis. An NPR piece describes the ready-for-cinema story of complex personal relationships and interweaving lives (paging Paul Haggis…) affected by the lack of the globally standardized intermodal freight devices we’ve naively taken for granted for so long. From a farmer in South Dakota to a mother in Japan, no one is safe. Despite proof that global markets and economic factors are the cause, it seems pretty clear just who we really should be blaming — architects. Specifically, those architects who selfishly insist on working with the rapidly depleting natural resource that is the shipping container. How dare you, LOT-EK. How dare you MVRDV. And you, Adam Kalkin, with your indecently decadent portable Illy café…how. dare. you (But, um… that Yahoo airbag proposal is pretty damn cool. We would kind of like to see that one built!). No longer viewable as a mere alternative building block, the shipping container should—no, must!— be re-repurposed! Let’s close the galleries, offices, and quik houses. Moreover, we may need to appropriate trailer parks and ship our soy products overseas in the ephemeral communities! In the name of preserving our national economy, let us ship our grains in architecture!

&#183 A Strange Shortage Illustrates The Global Economy [NPR]
&#183 When Shipping Container Architecture Goes Bad… [Life Without Buildings]


When Shipping Container Architecture Goes Bad…Apocalypse Bad

[left image via LOT-EK, right via io9]

Shipping Container Architecture will not. go. away. MVRDV’s Container City and LOT-EK’s Mobile Dwelling Unit (above left) are two of the most famous examples, but the irrepressible Adam Kalkin and other makeshift shipping magnates continue to explore the possibilities of a cargo-friendly living — so much so that there was even talk of a shipping container shortage last summer! Enough is enough. And for the final nail in the coffin, see concept designer B. Börkur Eiríksson’s dark vision of a smoggy dystopic future where we’re all crammed into mile-high towers by colossal mobile crane systems.


Architecture & Hygiene

I have to thank the New York Times for introducing me to the work of architect Adam Kalkin. The article focuses on his recent work with shipping containers but that’s not what caught my attention. Kalkin’s website,Architecture and Hygiene, is a wellspring of originality and compelling material. Besides his several books, you can also buy a tennis viedo where Adam offers instruction on the forehand, and for the sinners among us Architecture & Hygiene offer a confession hotline. Come to think of it, the whole thing has a distinctly McSweeney’s kind of vibe. The last of the “spritual purchases” offered, “100 comments on architecture and hygiene,” is just that. Some of my favorites:

8. Buildings are the result of a negotiated settlement: vulgarians on one side, hysterics on the other.
23. What happens to the architecture of the lecture hall when the speaker sits in the crowd?
29. How much anarchy is good for a building? A good architect courts anarchy.
58. A policeman is a beautiful design.
79. Who removed the clown from the mythology of architecture?
89. Creativity is not a desirable trait in a philosopher.
100. Architecture engenders the threshold experience.