Thinking inside the box
What would cities be like if Americans started occupying remnants of the global shipping system?
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Jonathan Ford, a civil engineer and planning consultant involved in new urbanist development, recently moved his one-man firm into an old shipping container. More specifically, he put Morris Beacon Design into one of 32 corrugated steel shipping containers that have been gathered together in a gritty section of Providence, Rhode Island.
Over the years, proponents of innovative answers to Third World needs have repeatedly tried to encourage people to convert the bulky metal boxes of global commerce into living quarters or other uses. The idea of making office space in a US city out of these eight-foot-wide, 9.5-foot-high, 40-foot-long enclosures, however, is a bit more unusual.
After working for a few weeks in the Providence complex known as Box Office 460, Ford said he likes his shipping container. The structures have been extremely well insulated. There’s plenty of light and ventilation; rectangles were cut out of the metal, allowing operable windows to be inserted. The interior doesn’t feel like a former shipping container. In all, Box Office has a dozen offices, predominantly 320 or 640 square feet, depending on how many containers are welded together.
“It is an awesome place to work, especially given the shared atmosphere with mostly design/entrepreneurial/green tenants,” says