I guess it’s the Peter Pan syndrome…

Stark James / Phoenix AZ

There’s just something very cool about the developments we’ve seen in recent years in converting shipping containers to apartments. There’s an appeal there that seems to resonate, at least with me, on many levels. (The image here is from a recent project by StarkJames Architects in Phoenix AZ.)

Of course, there’s the sensible, “green,” helping-the-world aspect of taking an existing limited shelf-life item like a shipping container and re-using/recycling it into an actual home. That’s obviously a very good thing.

There’s the financial and economic-advantage aspect, too, of innovatively using these containers to create a space that’s very likely far more affordable than conventional construction methods might allow.  That’s nothing but good as well.

There’s also the outright and undeniable cool factor of these creations, with their own modern and minimalistic vibe that’s really unlike anything else out there.

Then of course there’s the simple, no-nonsense appeal of using these Lego-like “building block” shipping containers to create fresh and inspiring personal spaces that are all our own.

And there we have the essence of it all, at least for me.

These are simply the coolest fort any kid could ever want to build. They’re made out of boxes, fergodsake — I’m guessing that cats absolutely love them — and what kid didn’t spend some time in his or her early years letting imagination run wild in a big discarded cardboard box? Your own little space that could be a spaceship, an aircraft carrier, a car or even a home to call your own. And in my case, and maybe for many others, the box was just the first step. You know, kind of like a gateway drug, except in a good way.

Before long, I was building forts at every opportunity. I had forts made of lumber scraps and tarps, forts that used a fence as one of the walls, underground forts with tunnel entries that even had covered and camouflaged doors, forts carved out of dense ten-foot-high bamboo stands, forts with functional windows and hidden entries, tree forts in trees and forts built between adjacent trees. Lots and lots of forts. The forts of my childhood years, in fact, are like mileposts on a highway.

So I have to think that it’s a natural progression for any former fort enthusiast, such as myself, to look at these container-built homes with a special affinity, a special lifelong connection. Maybe these structures recall simpler days when all your worldly possessions — or at least a few of your most treasured ones — would fit in your own little space, right there next to you, with nary an extra square foot to spare.

And at least for a while, you could imagine needing nothing more.

  • Sean Lewis


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About Sean Lewis

Sean Lewis, Marketing Director for AGC of Washington, is the son of an electrical contractor and, accordingly, fully capable of changing virtually any kind of light bulb. He’s a part-time musician, a Washington native, a graduate of Western Washington University, and tries hard to find joy in each day’s commute.