As part of the cultural countdown to the winter Olympics in Vancouver 2010, media art group Springboard—a trio composed of architect Robert Duke, designers Keith Doyle and Iain Sinclair, and artistic directors Nicole Mion and Evann Seibens—created containR, a traveling art film house.
The containR is made up of two shipping containers, one cantilevered over the other to create a "perceived expansion that opens up the space to feel much larger compared to the utilitarian tunnel one expects to enter," according to Duke.
The 8x40 ft bottom module can fit up to 25 guests who look up to the screen in the vaulted space where they watch projected short films about movement, dance, and sports. The construction hits the sustainability marks with its reused containers, solar panels, and easy disassembly for transport. The whole structure can be re-built in as little as a day.
As a public art piece, the structure speaks volumes as well. Graphic depictions of hands, eyes and cartoon cameras painted by artists Zak David and "The Dark" cover the steel walls of the originally cream and orange colored containers. On a walk around the structure, viewers experience large-scale graffiti, and can watch a documentary of the construction on a video screen built into the container’s exterior.
While this is Duke’s first use of recycled shipping containers, it is not unusual for the architect to use materials that mimic or play off of a project's surroundings. “Location plays a big role in developing a palette of construction and finish materials,” he says. In this case, the shipping containers poetically mirror Vancouver’s role as an international port.
The containR, in all its recycled glory, debuted in front of Moshe Safdie’s coliseum-esque Vancouver Central Library, and will continue its journey to and from different festivals over the next year, potentially taking on new capacities as a gallery, performance venue and retail space. Springboard is still in talks with the Vancouver Cultural Olympiad organization, hoping that other containRs can be built in public venues like Whistler, the Richmond Skating Oval, Cypress Mountain and downtown Vancouver.
The designers intend for the containR project to be a lasting fixture for public art in the community. And as Vancouver becomes the next international hub for Olympic visitors, hopefully the structure will also continue to inspire and spark innovative uses of sustainable materials well beyond the city limits.