CONTAINER ACCOMMODATION – TENDER FOR THE CONTAINER CITY INTERNATIONAL ARCHITECTURAL COMPETITION BY UNI
|Bence N. Krajnyák
We are happy to announce the Two Tower project has won a second place on the Container City international architectural competition by UNI.
„ … millions of living creatures …”
Attila, József: Ode
How can you write a poem using a grammar book? How can you turn a glossary into poetry in a way retaining its usefulness and at the same time raising the spirit? Or let us only talk about updating the glossary? Turning containers into architectural artwork? Or shall we put the most possible people into their own „storage places” and shall we say that we have done what we were supposed to do? I do not think so. Architecture is – and this is a commonplace – technology and poetry. And much more than that.
On the other hand, the form, material and dimensions of the freight containers are not necessarily suitable to give shape to highly elevated, or just humorous, or playful ideas … Or maybe yes? Let us make a try.
Firstly, let us have a look at the functional parameters, because without satisfying them the beautiful ideas do not have much weight. What are these parameters? Good usability, comfortable accommodation, small ecological footprint, simple implementation, a well-functioning arrangement, i. e. layout. And to reach all this we cannot resort to more than 15 „metal boxes” with specified dimensions and some additional structures.
Secondly (but not in the second place), the building erected on the basis of the above-mentioned principles should reflect unique ideas, and have added value, if you like.
What should be the process of the planning? We have to find out how the basic unit, a container functions in the most reasonable way. Then we can start playing with the shapes. To this we can find help in the requirement, formulated in the design brief to take a plot of land as small as possible for the purposes of the project. So, should we build upwards? The answer is an unequivocal yes.
To be more precise: actually, we build a closed tower – with openings here and there – the levels of which can fit in a regular square-based column. Its components on each level are two long (40’x8’x8’6”) and two short (20’x8’x8’6”) containers. In the short containers with double-deck beds two persons – friends e.g. – can live in comfort. In the container there are also a small countertop and a bathroom, too. The long container, also equipped with a mini kitchen and a bathroom, can house young couples who can also have guests in the sitting room. As a matter of course the furnishing is variable, the sitting room can be turned into a „master bedroom”, while the room currently designated as bedroom can function as a children’s room, if need be. The inhabitants have built-in cupboards and storage shelves higher on the walls.
I have said „on each level” but this does not seem so clear-cut. At the beginning of the designing process, we stacked the levels one on top of the other. However, it would have resulted in a rather boring mass from an architectural point of view. Therefore, we thought that we should start playing with the design, in the hope that an interesting, playful shape of a building may contribute to a better quality of life for the inhabitants. Thus, we figured out the following concept: the individual containers are shifted in relation to one another vertically with a quarter of a level, thus we can reach them „going round” in a four-arm staircase, which rises spirally in the core of the building. At the same time after reaching the next level the next four units are shifted horizontally with 5”. Therefore, the entire building itself shows a spiral rise up until the highest level. Thus the „closed tower” notion – in the concrete and abstract sense of the word – hides a twist in itself. Moreover, we added some play to the idea: we omitted one container from among the upward-spiralling container units on the third floor, thus creating a covered interstice, which is planted with greenery. This is an extensive, walkable green roof. (For that matter the roof of the building is an extensive green roof, at least partially rendering it back to the field that we took away with the construction.)
In the containers themselves, in spite of the constrained space, we planned to install thin but high-quality insulation in a way not to endanger the liveable space of the interior. The facades are but the painted walls of the original containers. The living spaces get large windows or French balconies.
The spiral container tower or rather more container towers in different colours can be built on spacious, once richly planted with greenery but today already neglected parks of big housing estates, interspersed among the original buildings. In this way these towers may contribute to the revitalisation of these parks and housing estates. It is also a plus that they provide an option to moving in a small flat in a youthful and cheerful building on an estate. Also, they can appeal to potential new inhabitants, while at the same time they improve the quality of life of those who live there already.
As we also stated it is vital to leave a small ecological footprint. The building we talk about has actually one leg, under the other elements there is a free living space for birds, beetles, bushes. We thought that the internal atrium would be more friendly if it had a tree on the uncovered free space. Wild vine and other creepers can grow on the walls of the containers; thus, the building could also look like a giant bush.
The tower – as we mentioned already, it can be multiplied on a bigger plot – provide home for several years for 30 people who just begin their adult lives, and the children of the couples or occasionally 16 guests can also be accommodated in the small apartments.