Image Credit: Design Matters via Behance 

How many times have you been wandering around an urban area and an installation of art, a structure or building, or a sign piques your interest and stops you in your tracks? Conversely, how many times have you been walking through town and an empty piece of land or space elicits the opposite attraction, and you think "gosh, they really need to do something with this space"? There are many elements that come together to improve a public space, either by using it creatively to foster awareness around a given topic or thing, or promoting community collaboration and engagement. 

According to the Project for Public Spaces, a good public space is not only inviting, but builds a place for the community around an artwork, or cultural venue, by growing and attracting activities that make it a multi-use destination. Alone, no designer, architect, or artist can create a great public space that generates and sustains stronger communities. Instead, such spaces arise from collaboration with the users of the place who articulate what they value about it and assist the artist in understanding a vision. Creative placemaking projects that engage a community in aspects of the process can provide the community with a sense of pride and ownership of their environment, as well as a desire to continue to collaborate with peers. 

Image Credit: Yasutaka Yoshimura Architects

In recent years, organizations, municipalities, and not-for-profits have turned to Secure-Rite shipping containers for their affordability, durability, mobility, and flexibility, with hopes of revolutionizing spaces, experiential marketing, and how the public consumes art and media. 
Here are 6 creative ways to use shipping containers for placemaking and disruptive marketing: 


Image Credit: (L) Design Matters via Behance | (R) Secure-Rite & ImmersiveTech 

As part of Melbourne International Design Week, creative Gavin Bufton executed Design Matters, a rainbow-themed art installation in Melbourne City Square to showcase Australia's design industry awards. Consisting of ten striking, repurposed shipping containers, passersby enjoy a cascade of colour and Laminex boards lined inside the containers, which present works of art from the awards. These vibrant shipping containers have open cargo doors at each end, making it easy for visitors to flow in and out of the exhibits, and colourful interiors to keep the senses in a state of excitement. This might be just be the coolest relocatable pop-up art gallery you've ever seen. 

From the art world, we'll now dive into the realm of life sciences, simulation, and skill. Driven by Leaps by BayerSecure-Rite and Immersive Tech were tasked with building an Escape Room out of a 40ft shipping container, which would aim to break boundaries in life sciences, and conquer ten significant challenges (or leaps) facing humanity. While resembling a futuristic submarine or rocket ship, the Escape Room offers an array of interactive science activities and facilitates an unforgettable experience for participants contemplating a career in the sciences.


Image Credit: Lucy Steeds via Pop Up City 

Though you'd be hard-pressed to find many gardens in the midst of any concrete jungle, many municipalities have started repurposing shipping containers into "parklets" or green spaces in urban spots that are otherwise lacking purpose or use. This example showcases the City of Montréal using upcycled materials like shipping containers to transform some of its quiet urban areas into seasonal and temporary places to rest and catch some shade, where parks are otherwise a little more out of reach. 

These parklets are visually inviting with the use of bright colours and artistry painted by local artists, and have made an otherwise void space into a vibrant communal hangout. 


Image Credit: Village Underground Lisbon via Curbed 

Village Underground Lisbon is a collaborative hub for designers and agencies, and built from 14 artfully stacked shipping containers. Outfitted with large cut-out windows, foot bridges, artist-curated exteriors, repurposed double decker buses, and maze-like architecture, the hub elicits a feeling of enchantment and endless imagination. Affiliated with Village Underground in London, the concept was brought from the UK by Portuguese entrepreneur Mariana Duarte Silva in 2014 and fit in immediately with Lisbon’s creative vibe. Today, Village Underground Lisbon consists of co-working office spaces, an art centre, café and restaurant, common area for socializing, and is open for anyone wanting to come in and visit. 


Image Credit: (L) Boxman Studios | (R) Pinterest 

What can you fit inside a container? Perhaps the better question is... what can you fit on the outside of a container? What better way to maximize your exposure than to advertise on a 20' or 40' storage container, which doubles as a billboard? Imagine the possibilities of extra-large format advertising if you start stacking containers? Your storage space is multi-purpose, and the dollars you're spending also accomplish more than one objective. In addition, the shape of a shipping container lends itself well to advertising a variety of objects and cheeky scenes within its dimensions, such as the boombox or SUV displayed above.


Image Credit: (L) Hung-Yu Lin via Treehugger | (R) PichiAvo via This Is Colossal 

A common question we hear from clients wanting to modify containers is "how well can we make it fit in to our surroundings?" An extreme answer: you can outfit the exterior with mirrors to have it reflect and display the surrounding area! Taiwanese firm B+P Architects created this mirrored space out of a recycled shipping container and applied it as a small art gallery for a local high school. 

On a grander scale, you can scatter and stack shipping containers and hold a graffiti relay with local artists! Graffiti duo PichiAvo traveled to Belgium for the North West Walls Street Art Festival to create a space where Spanish artists had creative freedom over the 7-container canvas. This vibrant spectacle is the result of collaboration and the epitome of creativity unencumbered. 


Image Credit: (L) Ipme | (R) H&M via Inhabitat 

Next time you're at a tradeshow, you may be able to order avocados from Mexico with the touch of a screen. Ipme modified this 20' shipping container into a tradeshow unit with touch screens on the exterior walls for guests to order food from. Attendees of the trade show were drawn by the graphic wrapped shipping container. This mobile tradeshow container was delivered with a single truck and set up and broken down within one day! 

Similarly, H&M kicked its two-day summer sale off right with a temporary, beachy pop-up container shop at the Hague’s popular Scheveningen seaside resort. The sale donated partial proceeds to WaterAid, an international NGO providing access to safe water and sanitation in the world's poorest communities. 

Image Credit: #MakersMobile

In their truest form, shipping containers are starting blocks and blank canvases, and their fullest potential is still being realized by innovative marketers, architects, and artists alike. Modified shipping containers are a strong contender in the placemaking and experiential marketing arena thanks to their sheer size, applicability, security and durability, affordability, and ability to be turned into pretty much anything you can dream up. 

What kind of space improvement or creative placemaking would you like to see around our community?