Instant corner shop, just add shipping container

British science fiction writer Paul McAuley spotted this instant corner shop created by plunking a storage container down on a tiny bit of front garden and flinging wide the doors. Instant architecture indeed -- a sign of the times, and more to come no doubt.

Instant Architecture (via Futurismic)


  1. That’s pretty much what every store, salon, and phone shop looks like in the South African townships.

    I’d expect this to become a global trend shortly.

  2. The problem with these structures is when you want climate control. If you don’t have anything that is sensitive to heat or cold (such as human employees or residents), no problem – plunk it right down. Otherwise, you’re looking at extra time and money to add insulation.

  3. Yeah, like Jay said, this is half the commercial real estate throughout Lesotho as well. It has walls and a roof and a door, which makes it considerably better than the other half.

  4. If someone made a pub out of a similar container that’d almost be enough to get me drinking again…

  5. #7, kiltreiser:

    I have been advised- “never drink in a pub with a flat roof”.

    Is this a planning permission dodge? No need for change-of-use planning permission if it doesn’t change the main use of the house, no need for planning permission to put up a temporary structure.

  6. I think this is on Bemerton Street, just off Caledonian Road (N1), should anyone want to go and see how they are currently keeping warm..

  7. I bought a jar of Patak’s Curry Sauce from there once, only to find it was a year past it’s sell by date. The guy wouldn’t let me take it back. You have been warned!

  8. This is a temporary shop while they knock down and rebuild the original one.

    I’ surprised it’s a shipping container and not a portacabin.

    of course the doors are not so much ‘flung open’ and the walls cut through with a blowtorch

    let’s not talk about how it even approaches meeting building regulations for insulation etc but it is quite fun.

    the shipping container is often used
    but it actually a very tricky choice as all the insulation is on the inside of teh vapour proof (cold) skin so you will almost inevitably end up with condensation formin in the insulation. The sensible, but less romantic approach is to overclad them

  9. That’s pretty much what every store, salon, and phone shop looks like in the South African townships.

    This tells more about Britain than SA, methinks. (disclosure: I live in London)

  10. Really, this is the /other/ end of the trend — that such situations are cropping up in the developed world.

    Containers-as-local-businesses is pretty much a fact of life in West Africa, anyway.

  11. Using Shipping containers as inhabitable structures is nothing new. Over thirty years ago there was a company in New Orleans that specialized in transforming them into instant field offices for the U.S. armed forces, for housing units on oil rigs and other applications. Some were outfitted to be modular buildings within a larger structure. Many were turned into double-wide structures. All that I saw were quite sophisticated when finished. The single-wide could be transported by truck trailer, barge and helicopter. The double wides were sent as two halves and then finished when they reached their final destination.

  12. Could have done with a cheerier paint job, no?

    I saw a report this week that said this trend will increase; the shipping industry is dead in the water (ha!) so the supply of containers is plentiful.

  13. It’s here in the New World too. The new-ish Plymouth, MA commuter rail station has exactly one building, one of these.

  14. As has been pointed out, in much of Africa, a shipping container is nothing more than the local equivalent of a prefab.

    When I was living in Ghana, one of my favorite places was an Italian restaurant cobbled together from about six of them, run by a crazy Roman named Giorgio. He’d had a local guy paint the insides with what he thought an Italian landscape might look like, and he’d get tipsy and sing for you.

    You’d find yourself thinking: “I’m sitting in a shipping container in Accra, listening to an old soak sing ‘Santa Lucia’ and staring at a mural that seems to be of Sophia Loren in a toga looming over the Vatican. Thank God the risotto’s this great…”

    Good times.

  15. How does this compare to using prebuilt mobile homes? It seems to me like mobile homes would be better because they’re built with windows, flooring, insulation, doors, electrical and plumbing already.

    The use of a shipping container seems to require a lot of retrofitting which might bring up the cost to be on par with a mobile home.

    I think they would be great instant cellars – coat one with a moisture barrier and bury it underground for added storage space…

  16. Lucifer – anything with windows is much easier to break into. Also, if you buried this it would corrode within bout 20-30 years (i dig alot of steel tanks out of the ground).

    Still, the idea of a pre-fab cellar to go under a pre-fab house is a great one. fab, even.

  17. It actually looks like anAnti-Vandal Porta cabin. We use them on festival sites for things like cash offices and equipment stores. it’s probably a purpose built unit, rather than a ‘hacked’ shipping container. Or purpose built from a shipping container, if you see what I mean.

  18. There’s a gallery space in one of these in an “antimall” in Orange County. I do like the idea of these being “instant,” but in reality I think there’s usually at least a little bit of customization to make the more habitable. For example, the window at the far end which some people seem to have missed.

  19. #5: Indeed. And a thickly-painted, heavy gauge steel box is quite a good way of dealing with it. Also, thank you for informing me Paul McAuley has a blog, BB.

  20. This is amazing!

    Imagine the money that could be made changing the world’s ample container supply into tiny portable offices, stores and homes!

  21. i lived in one of those for 2 months when i was in the military in . it was a rudimental medical center that dubed as living quarters for the medic. not much confort but better than the private soldiers’quarters. no problem with climate control i had an AC unit. and there were more of these containers used as shelter after an earthquake, then repurposed after the emergency.

    sorry for the lame fotos.

  22. This is luxurious compared to ‘corner shops’ in the Philippines. A corrugated iron roof, a light blub of two powered by a small generator and a few wooden crates stacked on top of one another for shelves. If yer lucky you’ll find one with a tiny fridge.

  23. When I was a kid and we were living in Montserat in the Carribian one of the local supermarkets run by an indian family set up a temporary shop in a shipping container to keep business ticking over whilst they had a new store built (there old one was buried under about 6 feet of ash).
    Tis one of those old ideas repeated i guess

  24. mazbox “I bought a jar of Patak’s Curry Sauce from there once, only to find it was a year past it’s sell by date. The guy wouldn’t let me take it back.”
    Let me get this straight, you bought food from a man in a portable box and you’re surprised that you got screwed? Are you going to complain about the dentist in the minivan next?

    Boba Fett Diop “It reminds me somewhat of Cory and Trevor’s ‘Convenients Store’ from Trailer Park Boys.”
    I buy single smokes there all the time, and they sell DVDs (some of which aren’t even out yet!).

  25. Let me get this straight, you bought food from a man in a portable box and you’re surprised that you got screwed?


    There are some of these type of shops in Ireland, in council estates (projects) usually, where no one else would invest in a shop. I would judge it less on its building material, and more on the willingness of someone to provide a much needed service to a community (and make money, obviously) in a place that might not be the safest in the world.

Comments are closed.