Brimming with over 30,000 students, Portland State University could certainly take a lesson from this project in Le Havre, France. Using recycled shipping containers, the developer build a steel exoskeleton to fit about 100 containers, providing basic and affordable student living. Not to mention they are just so cool!

From the architect:

The new town is the result of the transformation of old containers in modular housing units equipped with every comfort. Mounted on a metal grid, the containers have given shape to a four-story building that houses 100 apartments of 24 square meters each.

The architect Cattani said the thoughts that accompanied her work. “How do I prevent students, prospective tenants, they feel put in the box? Compelling needs have arisen. Necessary to conceive of a lightweight, transparent, and certainly not solid. Hence the idea of independent living, to avoid the stacking effect.”

The solution was found in a metal frame that acts as a structural support to the old container, while allowing to stagger the units, and create new space for walkways, patios and balconies. “The metal structure – Cattani says – it allows a better identification of the different rooms, and enhances them through the external extensions that become terraces and balconies. The sequences of the transverse corridors giving access to the apartments on the façade create a succession of full and empty spaces that gives the structure a more visual transparency.”

To ensure maximum heat and sound insulation, the walls of the container adjacent to the outside and those that divide the different units have been coated with fire walls in reinforced concrete 40cm wide, and come within layers of rubber to dampen vibrations.

With only 5,000 beds today, Portland State is widely known as a commuter campus. This of course adds to our carbon footprint and increases the need for parking infrastructure. In addition, the level of community and student engagement suffers from this deficiency in campus housing. What’s particularly neat about this type of project is how versatile it could be in fitting into tight footprints of the urban environment. I’d love to see Portland State experiment with something like this.

More photos and details here

– Victor