A Film Producer’s Desert Retreat Is a Starburst of Shipping Containers

A previously unrealized design by Whitaker Studio will become a vacation home in Joshua Tree, each shipping container strategically angled for protection from the climate, privacy, and desert views.
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Earlier this year, film producer Chris Hanley—known for seminal films such as American Psycho and The Virgin Suicides—invited his friends on a road trip to see his 90-acre plot of land in Joshua Tree, California. One of them remembered a project that she had seen online and pulled it up on her laptop, suggesting that it would make a striking addition to the rocky desert landscape.

That project had been designed by James Whitaker of London-based Whitaker Studio for a startup ad agency, but had never been built. It will now be adapted as Hanley’s vacation home, with the project scheduled to start on site in 2018. Shipping containers, angled in various directions to capture views or provide privacy, will make up the exoskeleton of the residence. The approximately 2,000-square-foot home will include three ensuite bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. A garage with a solar panel roof will power the dwelling. Nestled in a gully created by stormwater, Joshua Tree Residence engages with the topography and climate for a dynamic desert escape. 

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