There is reuse, and then there is reuse. The Mill Junction student dormitories in Johannesburg, South Africa, are taking the reclamation of shipping containers to places straight out of a science-fiction movie. The 11-story grain silos and 63 shipping containers will provide 375 students with affordable housing—something lacking in South Africa, where half of undergraduate students drop out of school, partially due to high cost of living.
The massive complex defies the scale of typical shipping-container architecture. These trendy structures usually comprise fewer than 10 containers, which are then stacked and arranged in a shifted composition. Sometimes just one container is converted into a small kiosk or pop-up shop, like at New York's SuperPier.
The Johannesburg dorms, however, reach 15 stories. The containers are deployed on top of cylindrical bases. Windows will be cut into the silos to unify them.
Photos courtesy of Citiq
The brightly colored crates are reminiscent of something you might find in a South American favela—or a project by LOT-EK on acid. The silos, refurbished and combined with the dilapidated metal crates, meanwhile, create a playful-yet-ominous presence, like staged ruin porn. Not as ominous as Google's secretive, floating shipping crate barges, but close.
These two types of construction each carry architectural narratives. Silos are a part of the industrial landscape that Le Corbusier admired for its machine aesthetic, but they're also simple, utilitarian structures that store grains and other products. Shipping containers have a similar dual narrative as an embodiment of the trendy post-industrial grotesque and the backbone of the global economy.
So, narratives aside, we have to ask—would you like to relive your freshman year here?