Ultimate Guide to Cargotecture

What is cargotecture?

When some people hear cargotecture, they often think of housing that has been built from shipping containers.

But cargotecture covers much more than just residential homes.

In this ultimate guide, we’ll deep dive into the concept of cargotecture, including:

  • Cargotecture definition
  • Why cargotecture is so popular
  • Examples of cargotecture
  • How to get a cargotecture building

Let’s get started by explaining the term ‘cargotecture’.

Cargotecture Definition

Cargotecture Restaurant

What exactly is cargotecture?

The term originated in 2003 by an architecture design firm, who coined it as any building system that has been built entirely out of shipping containers.

‘Cargotecture’ is a combination of ‘cargo’ and ‘architecture’, where the cargo part comes from a term to describe shipping containers.

Cargotecture is sometimes called ‘arkitainer’, which combines the words architecture and container. The idea of using shipping containers as buildings is actually not a new trend.

We wrote about shipping containers becoming other things in a previous blog, but essentially, the idea of cargotecture began in 1962.

The official patent for converting ISO steel shipping containers into habitable buildings was filed in 1987 by Philip C. Clark for using containers for housing purposes.

Now that you know a little bit about where the term comes from, let’s look at why cargotecture has become so popular.

Why Cargotecture is So Popular


A cargotecture movement began to take shape in the United Arab Emirates in early 2010. And it wasn’t just the UAE that saw a rise in the use of shipping containers as other things.

But why? What makes shipping containers so appealing?

Market Statistics

Valued at $8.7 billion dollars in 2019, a recent report by Allied Market Research projects that the market for shipping containers will reach $12 billion by 2027.

At the beginning of 2020, global shipping trades and the industry itself halted in light of the corona virus or COVID-19.

However, with restrictions becoming pulled back with low cases and infections, the industry is on course to recover quicker than it did during the 2008 financial crisis.

Recycling and Sustainability

As the global shipping trade begins to rebound, there will be thousands of unused shipping containers that will be discarded after years of use.

It was primarily this reason that reusing and repurposing shipping containers – and thus the idea of cargotecture – began.

Reusing and repurposing shipping containers adds another layer to sustainability. This means using products that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits.

Repurposing shipping containers into buildings can actually be about 30% more cost-effective than traditional construction methods.

Cargotecture Shipping Container Home

ISO steel shipping containers are also very durable.

Built to withstand harsh weather, shipping containers are great for areas that suffer from natural disasters, like flooding and fires.

Now that we’ve looked at why cargotecture is popular, let’s look at some examples of the trend.

Examples of Cargotecture


As mentioned earlier, cargotecture is often used to describe shipping container houses. But cargotecture covers many areas.

We’ve covered many of these different examples in a few of our blogs.

Restaurants and bars are one of the many popular buildings that are considered part of the cargo architecture trend. These eateries have been constructed by one or several shipping containers.

Oak & Ivy Cargotecture

The Oak & Ivy, for instance, is located within Las Vegas’ own Downtown Container Park.

Downtown Container Park is a food court and shopping mall that’s made entirely out of shipping containers, with Oak & Ivy as one of the bars.

The food industry aren’t the only businesses who are using cargotecture designs.

Stated earlier, the US is still in the midst of the effects of COVID-19. This has caused an increase of incoming patients and cases in the healthcare industry.

Before the pandemic, medical professionals were using shipping containers as deployable and movable medical units.

One example of this is Containers2Clinics, who designed a maternal-care clinic during the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

During the pandemic, several businesses have come up with medical clinics or additions to help medical staff, hospitals, and clinics.

Retail is another industry that may use cargotecture, especially in the realm of pop up shops. We wrote an ultimate guide with a history of the trend.

Pop up shops are often temporary stores that allow retailers to showcase new inventory to customers in new locations and for a limited time.

Adidas Pop-Up Shop Cargotecture

Adidas, for example, created a pop up shop that was made to resemble one of their shoe boxes. These unique designs are what help to entice customers to shop.

Other industries that use cargotecture include hotels and education.

You’ve learned what cargotecture is, you’ve learned why it’s becoming a popular trend, and you’ve seen some examples.

So how does your business go about using a cargotecture building?

How to Get a Cargotecture Building


As you’ve seen, many industries can and have been using cargo architecture within their businesses.

So how does your business go about using cargotecture yourselves?

It all depends on what you want your cargo architecture to be and how it will fit in with your particular business.

One of reasons businesses use cargotecture is to display a uniqueness.

The Qiyun Mountain Camp, for example is a large adventure and extreme sports park set in the mountains of Huangshan, Anhui in China.

Overview of Qiyun Mountain Camp

The park covers nearly 75,000 square feet and is the largest extreme sports park in the country. It is a full campus made entirely out of shipping containers.

As we mentioned with retail pop up shops, these designs help to promote a business’ brand, while also showing a style that separates them from their competition.

Both the Qiyun Mountain Camp and various pop up shops have been designed to showcase creativity.

Another avenue you should consider is how long do you want a designed container. Downtown Container Park in Las Vegas is a permanent structure.

Pop up shops are generally temporary, lasting for a few days, weeks, or months; in some cases, pop up shops can last for a year.

Cargotecture starts with using custom or modified shipping containers.

Customized containers are a great way to design your office, pop up shop, restaurant, or any type of structure your business needs.

At Southwest Mobile Storage, we can handle any customization that you need!

We have a full engineering staff that includes certified welders and electricians and we run an onsite fabrication facility where we create limitless customizations and modifications.

Pop Up Bar at Pima Waste

In this ultimate guide, we looked at the growing trend of cargotecture, why it’s been so popular, examples, and how you can use shipping container architecture in your business.

If your business is interested in exploring shipping container architecture, give our offices a call at 800.686.9114.

Our shipping container experts can help you determine the right size container to use, your length of time for using it, and answering any questions you might have.

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