Container Art Studio
10. June 2010
Reusing shipping containers-those modular and affordable products of international trade-has become an architectural phenomenon in recent years. Mahiar Behrooz answered some questions about his design of an artist studio and viewing space on Long Island built from two containers.
Rear view at nightPhoto: Dalton Portella
What were the circumstances of receiving the commission for this project?
Our client is an artist and a DJ whose house we had renovated and added to a year earlier. She needed an art studio and asked us, a year after the addition to the original house was completed, to figure out a way to build roughly 850sf of space for under $100,000.
Front view at duskPhoto: Francine Fleischer
Can you describe your design process for the building?
The intensity of site conditions -high ground, wooded lot, away from public view- and the simplicity of the program inspired a different way of conceiving this building. I felt that we could let the program simply express itself in its utter pragmatism and in contrast with the dense natural surroundings.
I avoided extraneous articulations of detail and form. This helped us maintain a limited budget. It also helped create an authentic building that can be no more or less than what it needs to be: a box that can receive an even northern light.
By shifting the viewer's focus away from the form and by liberating the building from metaphor and symbol, we created a hollowed space that would not distract from our client's goal of creating and viewing her artwork.
Lower level StudioPhoto: Francine Fleischer
How does the completed building compare to the project as designed? Were there any dramatic changes between the two and/or lessons learned during construction?
I allowed for large tolerances as it was clear before we began that many of the methods that we normally use in construction would have to be verified and confirmed during installation. Thus, while the overall assemblage follows our drawing carefully, the detailed articulation of openings in the skin of the container and the attachment of the containers to the foundation was improvised during construction.
Site PlanDrawing: Maziar Behrooz
How does the building compare to other projects in your office, be it the same or other building types?
In the sense that the Container Studio employs massive prefab & recycled components, it illustrates a departure in our typical methodology of construction; but in so far as it explores alternatives to wood building, it falls well within our research of the past few years. In fact it occupies a comfortable place between our Arc house which is made of a self-supporting corrugated steel arched roof and our Angle house which discovers new functionalities in steel, concrete and resin.
Upper Level Plan & West ElevationDrawing: Frederic Debackere
How does the building relate to contemporary architectural trends, be it sustainability, technology, etc.?
Recycling and reusing materials has been a longstanding tradition in architecture. The recent surge in the use of containers as building blocks is partially due to the US-China trade surplus which has resulted in a massive surplus of containers in US ports. In that regard, we help alleviate this imbalance while reducing the overall energy used for the building of our product.
Section, N & S ElevationsDrawing: Maziar Behrooz
Are there any new/upcoming projects in your office that this building's design and construction has influenced?
So far as all of our projects lead into other work and explorations, this project is followed by a prototype for a single multi-purpose moving container. The prototype will be exhibited at the Salomon Contemporary gallery in East Hampton, NY in August of 2010.
E-mail interview conducted by John Hill
Container Art Studio
Maziar Behrooz Architecture
Hands on Construction