Living in Dubai, it is not surprising when new developments spring up almost overnight. Construction happens at a very fast rate in this city. Even more so, when you use unconventional building materials meant exactly for this purpose. Enter shipping containers.
I’m sure the word Cargotecture isn’t new to you all. To those of you who are a bit late to the party, here is the definition.
The term Cargotecture was coined in 2003 to describe structures that are partially or entirely built from recycled shipping containers.
Now, the benefits of using shipping containers as building material are endless. The list will look something like this:
Shipping containers used as building materials are basically the ones unfit to store or transport goods. They are reused as building materials which makes it environment friendly to an extent.
They are easy to construct with and require lesser resources and time to do so as compared to conventional building techniques. As a result, they are cost effective as well.
They are durable.
The list goes on. With that we stop with Cargotecture 101.
The concept of using shipping containers as built spaces is not new to Dubai. They were seen at Market OTB (which stands for outside-the-box) at Burj Park and Beach Canteen among other places, during winter last year. These are pop-up markets are meant for enjoying the winter with some shopping, food and live music. These containers, with very minimal additions (only external paint in most cases) acted as the stalls at the market. It is perfect in this situation as it is temporary, which means it can be dismantled easily. However, this has only been used during the winter time so far in Dubai, as the metallic structures will make it impossible to work with during the harsh summer heat.
We feel, that the project that really brought Cargotecture to the forefront here is the BoxPark on Al Wasl road in Jumeirah 2. Opened in February 2015, this development is not a temporary set-up and is here to stay. It is very easy to understand why the chic looking exterior of this urban space charms people. It is a 1.2 km stretch of retail and foodie heaven.
Below is a summary of our observations about BoxPark.
It is a retail experience, which combines mall culture with the street. The brands on display are pretty much moderate to high-end.
These shipping containers are remodelled using glass and concrete which on one hand make the structures more functional with required number of openings for daylight etc.
On the other hand, they again under utilize the versatility of the container to be a complete space in itself, which is what the appeal of it was in the first place.
Shipping containers are seen as an opportunity for sustainable development, when the weather and other external factors permit. The energy utilized to keep these buildings cool while trying to maintain a street friendly environment seems not so sustainable to us.
Dubai seems to want a bit of every new trend that pops up in other parts of the world. They seem to have picked up cargotecture as a branding opportunity and have yet to exploit the true potential it has to offer.
They have parking for about 200 cars, which is insufficient for any development of this kind in Dubai.
It can be argued that it is meant to be pedestrian friendly and promotes a healthy lifestyle.
Meraas (the real estate firm that developed Box park) is coming up with refreshing alternatives to a confined mall such as city walk and the beach, which are also examples of open, urban spaces with a strong connection to the exterior.
The next phase of the project involves building gardens in the little pockets made by the structures.
Shipping containers have been used in several urban renewal projects in other parts of the world because of its versatility. In BoxPark Dubai this concept has been adapted to create a permanent structure that blends in with the surrounding neighbourhood and has contributed to the busy night life. So far, it has been well received by users.