Shipping Containers: Homes, Architecture, and Pop-ups
  • Design & Technology Design & Technology
  • Popular
  • Recent

Converting shipping containers is the latest trend in innovative, sustainable design

By Diane Pham


Shipping containers—like cars—have evolved into something much more than a means of transporting goods. Today, they’re one of the most sought-after sustainable building materials for architects, designers and just about anyone looking to buck the norm and build a unique space of their own.

Always the trendsetter, Chevrolet recently set up its very own shipping container pop-up lounge at SXSW, the popular nine-day music festival in Austin, TX, featuring some of the coolest acts around—including the award-winning Sonic. SXSW-ers came in droves to chill out at the hotspot, charge their phones and admire the ingenious Sonic’s features, such as the available Chevrolet MyLink radio with its inviting 7-inch diagonal touch-screen.

Though the decked out space has since disappeared along with the festival, we’re still digging the innovative design, so we’ve scouted out a few other fab cargo container constructions that are almost as fantastic. From a sleek Starbucks coffee shop complete with drive-thru to a spectacular New York City penthouse with million-dollar views of the Empire State Building, here are four impressive shipping container transformations that turn those bland boxes into coveted pieces of real estate.

Starbucks Shipping Container Drive-thru
Northglenn, CO

Coffee-craving Northglen residents no longer have to step out of their Sonic to get their caffeine fix. Earlier this year, Starbucks opened a brand new drive-thru shop constructed from two shipping containers clad in snow fencing reclaimed from neighboring Big Sky Country. The 480-square foot location is part of Starbuck’s new pilot program to develop a new model for eco-friendly, design savvy coffee shops worldwide. While the setup may stray from that of their standard brick-and-mortar design, don’t worry—one can still order that iced venti soy white mocha latte with two sugars.

Mattel Designer’s Shipping Container Dream Home
Kansas City, MO

While Barbie dreamed of living in a three-story pink mansion, Mattel industrial designer Debbie Glassberg had something a little more avant-garde in mind. The creative thinker constructed her gorgeous 2,600-square-foot abode from five reclaimed Chinese shipping containers. The fabulous light-filled dwelling also boasts a roof garden, a retro interior filled with chic vintage finds and a beautiful turquoise color palette that really makes the home shine. Barbie, eat your heart out.

Shipping Container Penthouse
New York, NY

The Guzman family didn’t let the price of New York City real estate stop them from enjoying the same spectacular views as the city’s elite. After purchasing an apartment mechanical room atop a Midtown building, the Guzmans hired architectural firm LOT-EK to transform the blight into a beautiful penthouse topped off with a with a 20-foot shipping container master bedroom suite. The one-of-a-kind structure even hosts a small patio, and of course, unrivaled views of the Empire State Building!

Whitney Museum Shipping Container Extension
New York, NY

Another innovative design from the architects of LOT-EK, this ultra-modern and eco-friendly museum addition was commissioned by the Whitney Museum as a space for special exhibits and activities. Here, six recycled shipping containers were joined into one unique black cube sheared by two fluorescent green diagonal windows that run up the sides of the module to the roof, creating a skylight. The containers were modified and painted locally at a New Jersey factory before being carefully craned, stacked and secured in the moat located at the Whitney’s entrance.

The trademarks mentioned in this story are held by their respective owners.

Diane Pham is a senior editor at


Destination Freight Charges

To allow you to do an accurate price comparison with prices featured on other Internet sites, GM provides Internet pricing both with and without the Destination Freight Charge (see prices including Destination Freight Charge below). To get full pricing details, go to our Build Your Own section.