Containing hope

Tsai Design Studio's repurposed freight containers are bringing joy to poor communities in the Western Cape.

A seafaring freight container has a lifespan of about 10 years yet most of them are built to last for at least 20 years. So instead of letting these containers enjoy a lazy retirement at the docks, shipping company Safmarine approached Tsai Design Studio to develop prototypes for turning the containers into centres that would benefit disadvantaged communities in various ways.

Tsai made prototypes for sports centres, computer labs and emerging relief housing. A 12-metre long container was converted into a sports centre that now resides in the town of Piketberg, 120km outside of Cape Town.

The sport centre can be used as an anchoring point on a sports field, to accommodate the coach’s office and to house change rooms and an equipment store.

Extra multifunctional elements were added to the prototype to maximize its functionality. A sheltering roof not only shades the spectators but also helps to insulate the container while the attached grandstand seating is the ideal meeting place for spectators. The roof structure is able to fold down vertically on one side and can easily be used for advertising or as a movie screen.

The advertising billboard can provide a source of income to sustain the centre. The first sports centre was built to coincide with the World Cup in mid 2010.