written by:
June 3, 2010

Having purchased a 3.5-acre plot of land in Topanga, California, with a very rustic, 750-square-foot cabin on it several years ago, architect Christof Jantzen found himself in need of a fairly quick, low-cost house expansion for his family (wife Lauryn and three young sons). Jantzen, principal of the Venice, California, office of the firm Behnisch Architekten, soon came upon the idea that more space could be achieved by redesigning a series of recycled and modified shipping containers, which would drastically reduce the typical time-consuming process of a traditional remodel.

“Building my own house made me realize that this was doable,” says Jantzen. “Most of the prefab structures on the market are very expensive, so I tried developing these container structures that would bring the cost margin of prefab down, which I think should happen.” At a cost of around $100 to $150 per square foot, the structures can be customized, stacked and combined into one of six Jantzen designs ranging between 320 and 2,400 square feet. With builder Eric Engheben of 44 West Construction, Jantzen has completed, among other designs, a poolhouse in Brentwood, California, and is in the permit stage on a 2,400-square-foot, 18-container atrium house in Topanga.
 

Adjacent to a small cottage on more than three acres in Topanga, California, stands a home addition that architect Christof Jantzen created from five shipping containers. He gutted the cabin and installed a small new kitchen and bath before adding the con

Adjacent to a small cottage on more than three acres in Topanga, California, stands a home addition that architect Christof Jantzen created from five shipping containers. He gutted the cabin and installed a small new kitchen and bath before adding the containers, which increased the size of the house by another 800 square feet.

1 / 11
“In order to create a unity between the old and the new, I used a freestanding steel roof supported by I beams to cover both the cabin and the containers,” says Jantzen, who passed on installing A/C in favor of integrating natural cooling elements into th

“In order to create a unity between the old and the new, I used a freestanding steel roof supported by I beams to cover both the cabin and the containers,” says Jantzen, who passed on installing A/C in favor of integrating natural cooling elements into the design. “The roof has an interesting climate-control effect; it almost functions as a sun umbrella hovering over the house with a buffer providing an airflow that helps keep cabin cooler, especially in summer.” The containers at front hold two side-by-side bedrooms; at left is the living area.

2 / 11
Jantzen was able to leave most of the sloping lot intact by anchoring the structure onto concrete piers of varying heights. He installed floor-to-ceiling insulating glass on one side of the bedrooms, consulting with a structural engineer to shift load-bea

Jantzen was able to leave most of the sloping lot intact by anchoring the structure onto concrete piers of varying heights. He installed floor-to-ceiling insulating glass on one side of the bedrooms, consulting with a structural engineer to shift load-bearing elsewhere to compensate for the removal of the original steel panel.

3 / 11
On the opposite side of the house stands an old oak grove; the views to it are enhanced by floor-to-ceiling sliding doors, which, when opened, create a natural breezeway through the house. Jantzen was able to sneak the roofline in just under an existing b

On the opposite side of the house stands an old oak grove; the views to it are enhanced by floor-to-ceiling sliding doors, which, when opened, create a natural breezeway through the house. Jantzen was able to sneak the roofline in just under an existing branch. At left is the small bedroom of the original cabin.

4 / 11
Jantzen sheathed the living area’s walls and floor in furniture-grade plywood paneling, behind which he placed thermal insulation to retain heat in the winter. He then sealed the ply in a water-based, low-VOC clearcoat to prevent any fumes from escaping f

Jantzen sheathed the living area’s walls and floor in furniture-grade plywood paneling, behind which he placed thermal insulation to retain heat in the winter. He then sealed the ply in a water-based, low-VOC clearcoat to prevent any fumes from escaping from the ply.

5 / 11
The dining area overlooks the oak grove; the original cabin can be seen beyond the glass doors. Jantzen placed the addition about two feet higher than the cabin, reached by a small staircase at right. “The containers are not only recycled, they’re very st

The dining area overlooks the oak grove; the original cabin can be seen beyond the glass doors. Jantzen placed the addition about two feet higher than the cabin, reached by a small staircase at right. “The containers are not only recycled, they’re very sturdy—stacking up to eight stories high on cargo ships—they are the perfect building material,” he says.

6 / 11
The owners of the Kelly residence in Brentwood, California, designed by <a href=http://www.abramsonteiger.com/">Abramson Teiger Architects</a> (which was on the AIA tour of Los Angeles in 2008), chose a Jantzen container design for their small poolhouse,

The owners of the Kelly residence in Brentwood, California, designed by Abramson Teiger Architects (which was on the AIA tour of Los Angeles in 2008), chose a Jantzen container design for their small poolhouse, which was pre-designed and fabricated, then lifted onto the site with a crane.

7 / 11
A rear wall of the container in front was covered in wood, with the opposite walls designed to be left completely open to the elements.

A rear wall of the container in front was covered in wood, with the opposite walls designed to be left completely open to the elements.

8 / 11
Made up of two containers, the poolhouse, built by Eric Engheben of <a href="http://www.44west.net/">44 West Construction</a>, was placed on the prepped foundation in three hours.

Made up of two containers, the poolhouse, built by Eric Engheben of 44 West Construction, was placed on the prepped foundation in three hours.

9 / 11
Jantzen designed a new, multi-story 2,400-square-foot house in Topanga, California, still in the permit stage, out of 18 containers, incorporating an existing tree into the atrium design.

Jantzen designed a new, multi-story 2,400-square-foot house in Topanga, California, still in the permit stage, out of 18 containers, incorporating an existing tree into the atrium design.

10 / 11
In this unbuilt design for a friend’s ironworks shop in Venice, California, Jantzen envisioned seven triple-stacked containers to house the owner’s collection of homemade racecars. “The containers can be a very playful architectural element,” says Jantzen

In this unbuilt design for a friend’s ironworks shop in Venice, California, Jantzen envisioned seven triple-stacked containers to house the owner’s collection of homemade racecars. “The containers can be a very playful architectural element,” says Jantzen.

11 / 11
Adjacent to a small cottage on more than three acres in Topanga, California, stands a home addition that architect Christof Jantzen created from five shipping containers. He gutted the cabin and installed a small new kitchen and bath before adding the con

Adjacent to a small cottage on more than three acres in Topanga, California, stands a home addition that architect Christof Jantzen created from five shipping containers. He gutted the cabin and installed a small new kitchen and bath before adding the containers, which increased the size of the house by another 800 square feet.

Project 
Jantzen Residence

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

kannerresidence 6 mcinturff architects
Abstract expressionist Richard Diebenkorn inspired the fresh coats of paint at this Maryland home.
May 31, 2016
burton residence concrete floors metal panel sliding outside
An easy construction process reduces any drama for a couple in California.
May 31, 2016
Modern outdoor deck with wooden ceiling and metal fence
Working with a limited footprint, a daunting slope, and killer views, architect Bruce Bolander went vertical with a secluded canyon house in Malibu.
May 31, 2016
Sustainable home with galvanized steel shed roof and siding
A rural house in Ontario doesn't fuss around and fits right in the surrounding landscape.
May 31, 2016
Modern prefab summer home in Madeline Island, Wisconsin
Prefab construction simplified the building process of this northern Wisconsin summer home, where all materials required ferrying across Lake Superior.
May 30, 2016
This unrealized plan reimagined the city’s downtown and included a large green area next to the capitol building and paths to bring people to the Delaware River
In her new book, Wild by Design, Margie Ruddick shows us how to get closer to nature.
May 30, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent joa herrenknecht berlin cstudio joa herrenknecht berlin loftsw livingr02 studiojoaherrenknecht 2015
Size doesn't intimidate this ambitious designer.
May 30, 2016
modern fjallbacka sweden pine boxes vacation facade
Architect Gert Wingårdh creates a passionately outfitted vacation home for two midcentury furniture dealers on the western coast of Sweden.
May 29, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent driaan claassen cape town south africa ccourtesy of driaan claasen dualpage82
Driaan Claassen combines a variety of materials and a love of history to create distinct objects.
May 29, 2016
energy star dirk wynants extremis poperinge beligium sustainable farmhouse facade
The owner of an outdoor furniture company updates a 19th-century farmhouse.
May 29, 2016
Modern small sustainable weekend home with flat roof
Two linked 1,000-square-foot pavilions are greater than a sum of their parts.
May 28, 2016
inside out los angeles home barbara bestor hollywood outdoor facade charcoal paint pool
Architect Barbara Bestor transforms a Hollywood Hills home by opening up its interior to the site’s dramatic backyard topography.
May 28, 2016
right of laneway vancouver garden sliding glass western window systems door outdoor
A Vancouver garden blossoms alongside fresh development.
May 28, 2016
20160229 dgd highhouse 1777 1024x683
A toddler, a pup, and their parents fit onto a 16.5-foot-wide plot in an inner suburb of Melbourne.
May 27, 2016
rec
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
May 27, 2016
capitol gains seattle multifamily living dining room wassily chair chaise le corbusier cb2
Two Seattle architects design and build a dynamic multifamily structure on a formerly vacant lot.
May 27, 2016
modern beach house thatch roof living dining bar cart
By eliminating walls and incorporating a series of interior gardens, architect José Roberto Paredes creates an eclectic and inspired El Salvador beach house.
May 27, 2016
7
A two-story Eichler in San Francisco gets a freshening up.
May 27, 2016
Bathyard renovation in Madrid, Spain
In Madrid, Spain, Husos Architects renovate a turn-of-the-20th-century apartment for a client with dual passions: her houseplants and a nice, long bath.
May 26, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
May 26, 2016
starting over sturgeon bay facade tongue and groove new growth cypress  0
After a devastating fire, architect David Salmela designs a house to replace a beloved lakeside retreat in Wisconsin.
May 26, 2016
Modern home with brick base and cedar rain screen on top level
An architect reimagines an outdated brick garage by designing a graceful new family home atop its foundation.
May 26, 2016
sardenya lr 7
A renovation brings light and order to a Spanish flat, maintaining its standout ceilings.
May 25, 2016
pow 5 25 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
May 25, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent thom fougere winnipeg canada cthom fougere studio thom fougere saddle chair 2
Designer Thom Fougere plays with scale and typology to create playful furniture.
May 25, 2016
prs my16 0067 v001 1
In the worlds of architecture and design, we’re always looking for the best ways of supporting sustainable building practices. This awareness doesn’t have to stop at our driveways but rather, it can extend to the cars we choose to take us to the places we go each day. With Toyota’s 2016 Prius, the daily task of getting from point A to point B can now be experienced with a new level of efficiency, safety, and style.
May 25, 2016
mountfordarchitects western australia
On a narrow site in Western Australia, Mountford Architects makes the most of a tight spot—with an eye to the future.
May 25, 2016
San Francisco living room with Wassily chairs
Materials and furniture transformed the layout of this San Francisco house, without the need for dramatic structural intervention.
May 24, 2016
shiver me timbers tallow wood kitchen
A pair of married architects put their exacting taste to work on their own family escape in the Australian bush.
May 24, 2016
in the balance small space massachusetts cantilevered cabin glass facade
When nature laid down a boulder of a design challenge in the Massachusetts mountains, an architect’s solution elevated the project to new heights.
May 24, 2016