Container City

Project Tittle : Container City (2010)
Site : Jalan Pantai Permai 2, Pantai Dalam, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Program : Multiple Residential Housing, Library, Parking podium, Elevated park
Designer : Qhawarizmi Norhisham

During the conception of Container City, I would never have thought of designing housing scheme out of containers. The intention of the project has somehow been manifested into these colourful containers but its not necessarily restricted to it. Some people would just stop looking into the project at the aerial view below and say, ‘ahh… another container project..’ or ‘wow..its very colourful’. But the project starts a liltle bit more serious than the ludacris palette of colour shown in the pictures below.

Container City aerial view

I began by questioning the ownership of space. Since the beginning of time, space is a commodity that has been taken into the ownership of men from God? Maybe? At least men think that they own the land. So the question would very much sound like this;  How can men determine the rightful amount of space for one person?

On Left, Schedule of unit typology possibility. On right, 3 mainframe units that can be evolved. Bottom, Unit arrangement with the corridor and integrated service cores.

Affordability must be compared relatively. As one person economic capacity is different with another individual. The typology chart that I have created moprhs with the concept that has been adapted from the car building industry. In car building industry, a company will design a car chassis that can later be fitted into a car that suits its economical, and luxury class consumer. So I have created 3 basic typologies that have the potentials creating 36 apartment typologies.

Interior view of kitchen, dining and living room.

The typology only influences spatial organisation that suits the owner’s lifestyle. But what influences the price of the units are the finishing materials used for the unit. A mechanism to ensure all range of potential buyers to purchase their house according to their affordability. The scheme can satisfy all range of affordability with interchangeable options before signing legal papers to buy the house. To invent an instrument that enables an individual to calibrate affordability into architectural decisions, I looked into the computer industry. Computer industry has become a success due to its relative affordability. (If you don’t believe me, try buying a PC in Low Yat. The first thing they will ask is “Boi,berapa budget boi?“) No matter what your budget is, you will be able to afford a computer. This is because a wide range of interchangeable components that can be opted for cheaper options (but high specifications aren’t neglected). Consumer power grew just for the fact that they can decide what they buy. It is different in real estate purchases as all housing units are determined by the architect or developer specifications. The buyer is forced to accept and renovate the house later on according to their preference. A wastage of fresh material used to built the original house. Sad.

Purchase Mechanism flow diagram

Have you ever visited the Dell website?  You can order your computer online and have all components of the machine tailored to your need. The same principle is taken into the project in order to give the units a ‘product like’ nature. The flow chart above demonstrate how the client can access the project by going online. The interface will illustrate in real time the interchangeable components that can be swapped with other materials or options. On the left side of the page will be a table, calculating the cost of the unit as changes are being made. These information will be recorded in secure domain. The consumer will have to sign up an account in order to shop for the house on the developer website. Once the options have been finalized, the information will be stored in a server that notifies and appoints a lawyer and the commissioned architect. Both will resolve legal and architectural related matters before handing ‘the order’ to the builder. As a result from the participation of the consumer in an architectural feature, a high level of individualism can be achieved by even using the same template as a starting ground (just like the car industry).

South Elevation

I’m sure by now you can guess why the facade is colourful, just like illustrated in the elevation above. This is due to personalization, a mix of individualistic units create an architecture as a whole. I as the designer let the people to influence architecture in a certain controlled perimeter to create sense of attachment to the built form trough direct participation. The project also includes a library, parking podium, public park and a kindergarten. The project is a prototype house where the idea exceeds its built form. A similar device of personalization can be adapted not necessarily on the basis of a container.

Container City satellite building that houses a library, kindergarten and management offices.

Project Construction Video

First Prize Winner IBS Video Animation Competition 2010-2011 [National]
IBS Integration for Green Technology
in conjunction with MIIE’11
5-7th April 2011

First Prize Winner Green Affordable Residential Challenge [National]
Urban Social Housing 2010
3rd Dec 2010

Honoury Mention IGEM: Dare to Dream Challenge 2010 [National]
‘A Green New Deal’
14th Oct 2010

PAM Annual Student Exibition One Utama 2011
One Utama Shopping Center
3 Oct 2011 -9 Oct 2011

Green ARC Exhibition Winners
Alliance Française Kuala Lumpur
7 Sept 2011 – 24 Sept 2011

Square 1 : Internal & External Review 2011
Selected Display of  Student Work
Dewan Sri Budiman, UiTM Shah Alam
19 May 2011 – 22 May 2011

Selangor Property Expo Exhibition (SELPLEX) 2010
Shah Alam Convention Center
29 October 2010 – 31 October 2010

PAM Annual Student Exibition 2010
One Utama Shopping Center
18 Oct 2010 – 24 Oct 2010

Dare to Dream Challenge Booklet (2010)
IGEM 2010: A Green New Deal
page 20-21

Pecha Kucha 2012
Design Biennale: Akar
at Universiti Teknologi MARA, Shah Alam
5 April 2012

Comments and feedback are welcomed
Qhawarizmi Norhisham.

9 thoughts on “Container City

  1. Ping Fuan Lee November 13, 2011 / 10:36 pm

    excellent idea and scheme! love it!!
    and just the right soundtrack to compliment the concise video presentation!
    it feels like a great scheme, bro. while i admire the idea, and presentation, i cant help but to wonder if there could be a scheme where completion of each unit doesn’t affect the others.. like, if they can be separately completed and handed over while the other units are still on the drawing block, or have yet to be sold. which means to say that, the lifting mechanism of the containers may have to be present on-site until the entire project is sold and completed.
    its a bit like completing an entire housing estate of bungalows, where the owner buys the lot and build up his dream home at his own pace and to his own tastes. but that seems very difficult in a high-density, vertical scheme.
    any thoughts on that, my friend?

    • MDRXA November 13, 2011 / 11:46 pm

      Ping Fuan Lee, thank you for your interest in the project. Actually, the idea of the project is on the principle level. An apartment is just a physical manifestation of that principles. The concept of interchangeable house components is easily adaptable to other housing typology. In this particular project, i did think about putting a crane as a permanent feature of the building, but also function as something else when it is not needed.

      But as the time goes, and the project brief start to sink in, (developer-affordable housing) i device such mechanism to switch house component as a PRE construction deal. I know it will make the project less interesting but, that is the only way such concept is applied in real world (at least in Malaysia). (Had to make it more realistic due to brief pressure) CF cant be issue if the building composition keep changing, with no CF people cant stay there. So all the dealing is made before the construction. (Exactly like when u buy a car, u can customize before u get the car). Post construction changes will be only applicable for internal fittings.

      For a mean time, the project is nothing but a starting prototype using the principle that i formulate based on my final year research entitled: HOUSING THE UTOPIAN CITY: ADAPTING AND IMPLEMENTING THE PRINCIPLES OF THE PLUG-IN CITY’S SILO CONCEPT IN MALAYSIA. Thank you for your respond. (Next Step) the idea of ever evolving high rise residential unit that can come in and out.

  2. Rebecca January 5, 2012 / 11:09 pm

    Hi there!

    I was browsing through the web for some research on a university project I am doing here in Germany. I just wanted to tell you that I think this housing concept is great and could really be a project that could be adapted throughout the world. I think that affordable but still individual housing will be a huge problem – or challenge – in the future. A project like the one you described might be a solution for countries where poor people still live in huts but economy is booming so that they have to find new housing solutions.
    Nevertheless I also leave you a comment not just to tell you how great I think your project is, but also because my group and I had a “container city” idea for our project as well. Although for us it is more an art centre built of containers. So I was wondering whether you could tell us something about the costs of building container houses?! Imagine we would want to use about 140 containers and have always 3 of those on top of each other so it would seem to be small houses.. when you were outlining your project above was there some approximate numbers given about how much theses containers, the rebuilding/renovation (to make it possible to live inside a container), the water and energy system etc. all together would cost? how much budget was planned for the project of yours (which I figure would be half paid by the units sold…).
    Any number you could give me maybe so that we have an approximate idea on that for the calculation of our university project?
    Thanks in advance!
    greetings from germany,

    • MDRXA January 6, 2012 / 2:50 am

      Hello Rebecca, thank you for your interest in our project. We did research into the approximate costing of the project. Just to be clear, the prices of systems and items that I would mention after this do differ from one country to another. In Malaysia, a 40ft used container costs around RM6000-7000 and a 20ft used container cost around RM3000-4000. Making the container habitable will cost a minimum of RM2000. (but take note that Malaysia doesn’t have 4 seasons) so the insulation requirement might not be the same as in Germany.

      Total per house:
      2x20ft + retrofit =(2)3500 + (2)2000
      = RM11 000
      2x40ft + retrofit =(2) 6500 + (2)4000
      = RM 21 000
      Structural support beams + Concrete Core + Corridor + Services + Installation = RM 30 000
      Finishes (Varied) =RM 15 000 – 20 000
      Total: 76k – 81k

      One unit (4 containers) will be sold for 100k-120k. So there is a sizable profit margin for the developer. (note that this is a social housing project)

      Notice when I say “Making the container habitable will cost a minimum RM2000“, this figure is varied in the project as each unit are subject to customization by the buyer before the houses are constructed.

      I hope that this information will help. My partner is half German and we visited Germany several times, it will be interesting to see how a container project is adapted elsewhere. Alles Gute für das Projekt.

      Regards from Malaysia.

  3. YN April 30, 2013 / 3:00 pm

    Hello there MDRXA,
    We are impress with your website and the concepture designs. Patrick and I will be around in Kuala Lumpur on 22-May. We would be nice if we could drop by your office if you both are around. My Patrick J is an artish and designer from Canada.

    PJ & YN

  4. Alex Chin May 31, 2013 / 11:15 am

    Has it being built ? Or in process of building ? If not, it remains a concept. Interesting, but still a concept

    • MDRXA July 21, 2013 / 7:28 pm

      Yes it is a conceptual idea, submitted for a housing competition back in 2010.

  5. francis Poncho February 24, 2014 / 1:10 pm

    Hi, I am a project manager in Singapore, I want to do this concept for my client.can u contact me at to discuss the project that I intended for my client .
    Thank You
    Francis Poncho
    Senior project manager

  6. Riche Ho November 14, 2014 / 4:03 pm

    Hi, your conceptual idea about container city is impressive. Your design is beautiful. Currently, I am looking into an idea of building a container city which is used for multipurpose hall. The multipurpose hall can be used as badminton game, sports and most important is as a temporary living place for those flooded area. Can you kindly lend me a hand and provide me some ideas? If this project is work, it will contribute to the society especially kelantan and terengganu area. Hope to listen from you,

    This is my email.



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