Discover 5 Public Buildings in South Korea Made Out of Shipping Containers

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By Michele Koh Morollo / Published by Dwell
In South Korea, shipping containers have been used to build amazing projects including an art school, low-cost housing, a gathering space for creatives, a theater company, and even one of Seoul’s most popular shopping malls.

According to architect Jiwon Baik of Seoul-based multidisciplinary studio URBANTAINER, containers are cheaper to mass-produce than concrete structures. Plus, they can be removed and reused, making them a much more sustainable mode of architecture. 

Baik, who has worked on a handful of remarkable shipping container projects—such as Common Ground and the National Theatre Company of Korea—says that compared to reinforced concrete construction, container modular architecture reduces carbon emissions by 60 percent, costs by 50-percent less, and requires 30-percent less time to build.

His colleague, interior designer Younjin Jeong, believes that container architecture also solves some of the economic challenges faced by retailers and hospitality operators. "Modular container structures are mobile, so tenants don’t need to buy the land—they just rent it—and after their lease ends, they can deconstruct the structure and build it again on a new site," she says.

Below, we look at five interesting ways that shipping containers are being used in South Korea.

Common Ground

Discover 5 Public Buildings in South Korea Made Out of Shipping Containers - Photo 1 of 10 - Common Ground is a dynamic mall in Seoul that's made out of 200 blue stacked prefabricated container modules. The 57,048-square-foot building, which took only five months to construct, is home to a variety of retail stores and food-and-beverage outlets that frequently draw a lively crowd.

Common Ground is a dynamic mall in Seoul that's made out of 200 blue stacked prefabricated container modules. The 57,048-square-foot building, which took only five months to construct, is home to a variety of retail stores and food-and-beverage outlets that frequently draw a lively crowd.

Discover 5 Public Buildings in South Korea Made Out of Shipping Containers - Photo 2 of 10 -
Discover 5 Public Buildings in South Korea Made Out of Shipping Containers - Photo 3 of 10 - With sponsorship from the Korea Child Fund, Seoul practice JYA-Architects designed this low-cost home in the small county of Jangheung in the southeastern province of South Korea. It was created to help improve the quality of life of a low-income family of seven. Using just three shipping containers and light-gauge, translucent framing, this home is a great example of how sustainable design can be used to address a tight budget.

With sponsorship from the Korea Child Fund, Seoul practice JYA-Architects designed this low-cost home in the small county of Jangheung in the southeastern province of South Korea. It was created to help improve the quality of life of a low-income family of seven. Using just three shipping containers and light-gauge, translucent framing, this home is a great example of how sustainable design can be used to address a tight budget.

Discover 5 Public Buildings in South Korea Made Out of Shipping Containers - Photo 4 of 10 -
Discover 5 Public Buildings in South Korea Made Out of Shipping Containers - Photo 5 of 10 - Bold, red-colored shipping containers were used to create a 39-foot-long extension for visitors to the National Theatre Company of Korea. Designed as a social zone for theatergoers, the space was equipped with internal sliding partition walls that can be opened or closed to allow for flexible use of the interior spaces. 

Bold, red-colored shipping containers were used to create a 39-foot-long extension for visitors to the National Theatre Company of Korea. Designed as a social zone for theatergoers, the space was equipped with internal sliding partition walls that can be opened or closed to allow for flexible use of the interior spaces. 

Discover 5 Public Buildings in South Korea Made Out of Shipping Containers - Photo 6 of 10 -
Discover 5 Public Buildings in South Korea Made Out of Shipping Containers - Photo 7 of 10 - Eight shipping containers that are shifted and cut along a 45-degree angle are combined in a fishbone pattern to create a sculptural, arrow-shaped volume that’s raised almost 10 feet above ground. Designed by New York-based firm LOT-EK, the building serves as an art school near the Hakwoon park pedestrian walkway in Anyang, as well as a focal point and landmark structure for the area.

Eight shipping containers that are shifted and cut along a 45-degree angle are combined in a fishbone pattern to create a sculptural, arrow-shaped volume that’s raised almost 10 feet above ground. Designed by New York-based firm LOT-EK, the building serves as an art school near the Hakwoon park pedestrian walkway in Anyang, as well as a focal point and landmark structure for the area.

Discover 5 Public Buildings in South Korea Made Out of Shipping Containers - Photo 8 of 10 -
Discover 5 Public Buildings in South Korea Made Out of Shipping Containers - Photo 9 of 10 - As an organization that was founded in Berlin, Platoon Cultural Development is a hub for people exploring street art, video art, club culture, political activism, fashion, and other creative subcultures. Its Seoul chapter is located in a building that's comprised of 28 ISO cargo containers that are spread over three floors. The structure’s cool industrial character certainly matches its purposes well. The project was designed by Platoon Cultural Development in consultation with GRAFT Architects, Jiwon BaiK, U-IL Architects & Engineers, with interior design by URBANTAINER.

As an organization that was founded in Berlin, Platoon Cultural Development is a hub for people exploring street art, video art, club culture, political activism, fashion, and other creative subcultures. Its Seoul chapter is located in a building that's comprised of 28 ISO cargo containers that are spread over three floors. The structure’s cool industrial character certainly matches its purposes well. The project was designed by Platoon Cultural Development in consultation with GRAFT Architects, Jiwon BaiK, U-IL Architects & Engineers, with interior design by URBANTAINER.

Discover 5 Public Buildings in South Korea Made Out of Shipping Containers - Photo 10 of 10 -

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