Stacked Shipping Containers Create a New Model For Urban Living in South Africa

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By Anna Squier
This modular building composed of 140 shipping containers is designed to revitalize and revamp the downtown core of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Located on a triangular site in Maboneng, an area of recent urban transformation and renewal, DRIVELINES Studios is a 7-story mixed-use building made from repurposed shipping containers. Award-winning studio LOT-EK and architect Anita Du Plessis designed the building as two residential bars that follow the angles of the site, framing a private interior courtyard between. 

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The residential building blends in with the urban fabric.

The residential building blends in with the urban fabric.

The building's industrial character ties in nicely with the surrounding infrastructure and architecture.

The building's industrial character ties in nicely with the surrounding infrastructure and architecture.

The organization of the buildings closely resembles that of a billboard. The project's colorful exterior facades are flat and flush with the site lines, presenting a boldly graphic display to the public eye. Behind, a series of open staircases, the elevator tower, and several circulation bridges look out upon the interior courtyard.

The buildings create a pedestrian-friendly experience by placing retail on the main floor, where it is easily accessible to passers-by.

The buildings create a pedestrian-friendly experience by placing retail on the main floor, where it is easily accessible to passers-by.

The two building masses join like a hinge at the narrow end of the site.  The solid masses are broken only by the exterior circulation routes. The complex name, DRIVELINES, is painted onto the end facade. 

The two building masses join like a hinge at the narrow end of the site. The solid masses are broken only by the exterior circulation routes. The complex name, DRIVELINES, is painted onto the end facade. 

Large cuts in the outer walls of the shipping containers create a geometric pattern of glazed openings.  At night, the openings create a patterned facade that is both solid and transparent.

Large cuts in the outer walls of the shipping containers create a geometric pattern of glazed openings. At night, the openings create a patterned facade that is both solid and transparent.

The interior courtyard has become a social gathering space for residents.

The interior courtyard has become a social gathering space for residents.

Exposed stairways and connecting bridges resemble the back side of a billboard.

Exposed stairways and connecting bridges resemble the back side of a billboard.

Circulation platforms weave above the open courtyard space.

Circulation platforms weave above the open courtyard space.

The architects worked with a palette of metal mesh, concrete, and colored shipping containers to create a bold dwelling that revitalizes the urban core while promoting sustainable construction. The buildings' colors were determined by what containers were available at the time of construction. The containers were stacked and cut on site, and then combined like building blocks to form the structure's overall shape.

Diagonal cuts are mirrored across the facade, creating a rhythmic pattern of material and void.

Diagonal cuts are mirrored across the facade, creating a rhythmic pattern of material and void.

The triangular geometry of the site is revealed at the meeting point of the two volumes.

The triangular geometry of the site is revealed at the meeting point of the two volumes.

The interior balconies provides plentiful views of the urban core.

The interior balconies provides plentiful views of the urban core.

Each unit features large windows formed by a diagonal cut that runs through the container from corner to center. This creates a steady rhythmic pattern across the facade, while providing each occupant with daylight and views.

Interior spaces are minimal, carrying the simplistic design from outside to inside.  Diagonal openings reveal snippets of the city.

Interior spaces are minimal, carrying the simplistic design from outside to inside. Diagonal openings reveal snippets of the city.

The shipping container walls have been painted white on the interior, creating bright living spaces.

The shipping container walls have been painted white on the interior, creating bright living spaces.

Ranging in scale from 300–600 square feet, the living spaces provide all the necessities of a contemporary urban dwelling.

Ranging in scale from 300–600 square feet, the living spaces provide all the necessities of a contemporary urban dwelling.

On the ground floor, diagonal cuts connect the public sidewalk to a covered portico.

On the ground floor, diagonal cuts connect the public sidewalk to a covered portico.

The ground level includes both residential and retail spaces, along with a communal courtyard and pool for the residents. The six levels above are filled with residential units, all of which are open plan studios varying in size from 300–600 square feet. Although compact in size, the dwellings are a big stepping stone in re-imagining how urban living can be designed.

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Anita Du Plessis

Builder / General Contractor: TRI-Star

Structural Engineer: Asakheni + Silman

Civil Engineer: DG Consulting Engineers

Interior Design, Lighting Design, Cabinetry Design / Installation: LOT-EK / @lot_ek