Thinking Outside of the Box (or in it?)

Thinking Outside of the Box (or in it?)

Over the last couple of years a new emerging trend of providing flexible storage and retail locations to SME’s has hit the UK retail market. This new development doesn’t need bricks, mortar or fancy cladding. All it needs is a fresh paint job and a flair of innovation.


The question of how will commercial property development cope with the increasing population and decreasing level of space? Has appeared to be answered by an unlikely source. Re-purposed shipping containers have started to pop up all across the UK. Offering compact retail, leisure and office spaces in small inner-city locations where a full scale development project simply couldn’t fit. These quirky containers however offer more than just an exciting concept. They are proof that innovation can lead to genuine and affordable solutions.

Where did it start?

In the early naughties the first mass developed and established concept of re-purposed containers started to circulate. The term Cargotecture was adopted to encapsulate this new method of turning disused containers into small, boutique homes. The idea was the brainchild of architect Adam Kalkin who one day, after travelling home and seeing a pile of shipping containers stacked up together, was inspired to create affordable and easily assembled accommodation. Kalkin’s method proved effective as the whole assembly process took ten weeks from start to finish.

Where is it now?

Since then the method has been developed and moulded to serve a variety of purposes and industries. In the UK a substantial number of SME’s and pop up stalls/events are choosing to rent out converted containers as a predominant option over a fixed store location.

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The Hatch

In Manchester there is the Hatch on Oxford Road. Developed by Bruntwood, Hatch opened at the beginning of 2018. Hatch houses ten small businesses including a fully functioning micro-brewery and an outside space for events. The project took only two weeks to finish and has already become a hot-spot for shopping and leisure. In-congruent and somewhat unexpected. They’ve attracted plenty of interest from those passing.

Container City

In London developers were quick to realise the potential of containers. In 2001 one of the largest stacked container locations opened. Container City is based in London’s Docklands District and provides office space for mainly creative and tech based companies.

80% of the structure is used out of recycled materials, the whole assembly process took only 2 days, it covers 560 square metres and provides office space for twelve businesses as well as some living space. The project was so successful that the developers opened a new container city aptly named Container City 2 which took 8 days in total assemble.


KRYNKL is a development in Sheffield’s Kelham Island. It was constructed using 29 shipping containers and facilitates a plethora of different businesses and purposes including: start-ups, meeting rooms, coffee shops and even a yoga studio. KRYNKL opened its doors to the public in March 2017 and is one of the newest developments of this scale to use shipping containers.

Box Park

BoxPark first opened in 2011 in Shoreditch and was the vision of founder and ex CEO of the fashion brand Box Fresh, Rodger Wade. Wade came up with the idea because he was frustrated with repeatedly moving stalls to develop his growing fashion brand and wanted a permanent place at an affordable price. One of BoxParks main aims is to allow retailers an affordable and flexible opportunity to showcase their brand, image and talent. As a result of the initial success, Wade has opened another larger BoxPark location in Croydon.

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