With a Observeur Design Star in the category Habitat & Domestic Equipment, this adaptation of a goods containers as an independent module for living, designed by Frédéric Gaunet for Men@Work/Stephan Vergnaud, should see considerable commercial development in France and abroad, notably in the offbeat hotel market. A logical future for this project, commended as much for its nomadic nature and eco-friendliness as for its functionality.

Transform a goods container into a compact, comfortable module home, polyvalent and self-contained. That is the brief Men@Work gave to Frédéric Gaunet. Three metric tons of sheet iron shaping a 12,20 x 2,44 m shoebox .
Working with shipping containers already used for transporting equipment and merchandise, the architect deployed ingenious research, sidetracking a ready-made to put functionality, aesthetics and eco-awareness into his proposal.
No doubt Gaunet’s capacity to do so was one of the reasons why he was chosen for the project. Another is that the director of Men@Work, who did not want an ‘ostensibly green’ solution, had been impressed by the creator’s work, in particular the range of steel furniture for Tolix, whose honed and sleek industrial lines reminded him of his Macintosh.

The module also has an immediate application as a reception facility for international partners and clients of Men@Work in Central Africa. And studies are in hand for a hotel version, since the ISO 668 rating of the containers means they can be shipped to any part of the world. The considerable development potential of the concept in the near future encouraged Frédéric Gaunet to keep an eye on the eco-friendly aspect of the project.

For example, particular attention has gone into making the module independent energy-wise. Solar panels supply enough electricity for daily use (low energy lighting by LEDs) and even for handling waste water.
Natural and local materials, recycled and/or recyclable are used for heat- and sound-proofing (Isocel® cellulose-base insulation for walls and roof) and for the interior and exterior fit-out of the module (composite textiles, woven fibres…).
In spite of the tight dimensions of the containers, interior layout remains modular and flexible. Day/night spaces, circulation and technical installations are laid out around a central bloc that encloses the wet room, with knock-down/fold-away kitchen and desk. Similarly, metal seating can be detached from support rails for use outside the module, where – flipped over – they become comfortable deck chairs.
Sliding timber panels confer on rooms and windows aesthetically pleasing functionality, unexpected in this type of job. ‘From the fit-out to the modules themselves’, comments Frédéric Gaunet, ‘everything can be reassembled to make real villas, and all combinations are possible to suit users’.

Lots of projects deal with this subject, but by its humanist thoroughness, eco-awareness and design-in-mutation, this proposal is one of the best.

‘Self-contained module home’ by Frédéric Gaunet
Observeur Design 10
Cité des sciences et de l’industrie
from 23 October 2009 to 21 February 2010