Boom Living in a Box
posted by May 2 at 14:02 PMon
Remember that British one-hit wonder Living in a Box that performed the song Living in a Box off the album Living in a Box? I know—you were trying to forget. But Mithun Architects is keeping the memory alive. They wanted to live out every vagabond’s dream of converting an old freight container into swank digs. But there’s one catch to the metal cargo-conversion fantasy.
“It’s hard to beat the cost of wood in the Pacific Northwest,” says Joel Egan of HyBrid, a Seattle-based construction firm commissioned to build prototype residential units. So, rather than steel boxes like some pre-fab projects in Australia and England, an apartment building with ground level retail proposed for Dexter Avenue North will contain about 60 boxes built from wood (a pop-up about how they’re built is here).
Two stacked units, at approximately 675 square feet each, look like this:
Together in an apartment building—after being assembled in a warehouse, delivered by truck, and plunked down by a crane—they will look something like this:
The greatest benefits of pre-fab apartment buildings are for the financiers of development. Although the construction costs, according to Tammie Schacher of Mithun, remain the same as on-site construction (the goal is $80-90 per square foot), the construction time decreases by three to six months—reducing the window of investment risk and adding months to collect rental fees. One hopes the savings are passed down to renters.
On the con side is the potential for flat-faced, dinky-looking buildings. The boxes don’t lend themselves to the variety of shapes to create interesting visual relief as on-site construction. However, there are examples, such as one in Manchester (pop-up), which looks quite dashing. In the preferred scheme of the proposal that went up for early design guidance this week, the boxes stood clustered together like several World’s Fair motels connected by pathways through the air. This has roughly the same esthetic effect of giant hamster cages connected by Habit Trails.
We’ll hold out opinion on the appearance until more designs are in, as the city needs more inexpensive apartments and Mithun fucking rocks. As for the dream of converting a cargo container into an upscale slumber tube, “All of us are hoping we can [eventually] get to a metal frame building,” says Schacher.