New Brunswick

Shipping container contest set to reveal big designs in little boxes

Contest on creative re-use of shipping containers yields designs for a giant periscope, a playground, a greenhouse, an art installation and a pop-up bike shop.

A playground, greenhouse and pop-up bike shop are all ideas for upcoming shipping container contest

The Sustainer Container project is being built by Jean Hudson and her partner as a greenhouse, designed to grow sustainable food in a backyard as a vertical garden. (Submitted: Discover Saint John)

What would you do with a 20-foot shipping container and $4,000? 

That was the question put to five New Brunswickers selected for the Cargo-Tecture Design Competition. 

Their answers included a greenhouse, a bike shop, a vertical playground, an art installation and a giant periscope.

"These have blown us away," said Victoria Clarke, competition host and executive director of Discover Saint John. "We never expected this level of creativity." 

The shipping containers are currently sitting in different parts of the province, from Rexton to St. Andrews, where their creators are finishing them for the Aug. 5 deadline.

Participants were selected based on their concept pitches and will have up to $4,000 reimbursed for their project as part of a Heritage Canada 150 display.

"We just finished one today," said Jean Hudson, who along with her partner have been putting together two of the competing containers. "One is [called] a Sustainer Container, designed to grow a garden in a vertical space in a backyard. The other is a Maintainer Container for bicycles." 

"Both ends are open … with ramps so you can drive your bicycle in and drive your bicycle out," said Hudson. "In there there's a workbench, and tools, and a stand, and everything you need to repair and maintain your bike on the trail." 

Another project titled the Vertical Playground, will see a shipping container stand upright to entertain active children. 

"It's a 20-foot shipping container tipped on its end and the top will be a wooden play-structure," said Clarke. "They are really something else." 

Members of the public will get a chance to explore and vote on their favourite designs on Aug. 5-6 at the 506 Festival in Saint John. The winner will receive $1,500 in cash, while $1,000 and $500 will go to second and third place winners.

"They'll also make a second appearance when the tall ships come to Saint John as well," said Clarke. "They'll be on the wharf then too." 

Currently organizers are deciding exactly where the containers will be stationed after the contest. A long life in the public wasn't originally in the cards, but Clarke says that changed once they saw the outstanding designs. 

"And now our problem is, and it's a great problem to have, is where are we going to put these for the long-term?" said Clarke. "These are things that should stay in our community." 


Shane Fowler


Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.