Intermarine is a marine logistics and ocean transport provider focusing on the needs of breakbulk, heavylilft, drybulk, and project cargo with a fleet of more than 55 advanced multi-purpose vessels. The project is located at an industrial terminal – a 95 acre site directly adjacent to the Houston Ship Channel functioning as Intermarine’s primary load and staging center for cargo and projects. We started the project with a myriad of site and building configurations to optimize the building’s potential to serve as a business development strategy for the company. We sited the building at the terminus of Industrial Road and then dodged every existing subterranean obstacle imaginable with the building’s relatively small foundation – approx 5,000 sf. It functions as both a terminal visitor center for Intermarine’s clients and as a port operations facility. Two main work groups housed were with the balance of the program dedicated to observation spaces and conferences.
The client requested that we explore the form-making possibilities of shipping containers as an obvious means of indexing the company’s industry. We pondered the ability of a literal compilation of containers to equate to something architectural like Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67. But in the end, the literal use of containers provided something a little less than architectural form – untransformed.
We decided that artifice was the active catalyst to architecturalizing the containers. Referring to the containers opened iconographic and spacial opportunities that actually using them cannot. No shipping containers were harmed during the making of this building.
Re-presentation and choreography of the visual Vibe given off by the physical context. Parsing the difference in this case between what we want to see and What we want to see represented- the difference between a cartoonish reaction of stacking shipping containers vs creating an almost impressionistic iconography that by taking clues from a broader local physical / visual context offers a richer integration between form and program.
Said differently - the difference is one architects have always surfed the edge of coming down every so often on the wrong side. We may like the idea of stacking shipping containers and indeed rediscover its "shock" value every half generation or so- but the thinness of the gimmick always gives way quickly- it lacks transformation and - well- artifice. That in the end is the MODUS OF ARCHITECTURE - it is in the end a purposeful intervention with authorship at stake. That is the subtle but important difference between a clever choreography of shipping containers and a careful evocation of aspects of them in service of a program that, in the former, can be contained by them and in the latter transformed by the provocations they may provide.