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Four Urban Hacks for the Abandoned Shipping Containers Piled Up at the Port of Oakland

Local creatives imagine a new life for the East Bay’s industrial leftovers.


Seven months ago, Korean shipping giant Hanjin Shipping abruptly filed for bankruptcy, leaving 1,000 to 1,500 shipping containers stacked five high at the Port of Oakland. We asked local creatives what they’d do with those giant Legos.

1. Student dorms
Bettina Limaco, who unsuccessfully sought to build Berkeley’s first “shipping container village,” wants to house students in them, as they do in Amsterdam and Berlin. Just one problem: A lack of insulation makes the containers either way hot or freezing cold.

2. Industrial wetlands
After our wet winter, the Bay is taking in even more debris and pollutants than normal. So UC Berkeley landscape architecture professor Kimberlee Stryker proposes an “industrial wetland” park made of shipping containers filled with gravel, soil, and plants to act as a giant water filter.

3. Urban greenhouses
While Elon Musk is building electric cars in Fremont, his brother, Kimbal, has been growing food inside Brooklyn shipping containers through his “urban farming accelerator,” Square Roots. Plus, you-know-what’s almost legal now!

4. Seawalls
Average high tides in San Francisco will rise by as much as 66 inches by 2100. Oakland architect Bridgett Shank wants to use old shipping containers filled with concrete as a sort of reclaimed seawall, as is done in Japan, where they act as breakers for tidal waves.


Originally published in the April issue of San Francisco

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