These container environments inadvertently perpetuate a sense of a Darwinian world in which only the tough survive. That brutality can be fun if it’s about creating a landscape for weekend partying; at Amsterdam’s shipyard, you can live out your “Mad Max” fantasies for 24 hours before heading back to the suburbs.
But the harsh landscape of the shipping container is a terrible shorthand for modernity. It’s not just the now-inescapable connotations of the migrant crisis. It’s that the people who’ve most celebrated the container form are precisely not the ones who’ve ever had to live in one: they can always go home, to a proper building somewhere else. And it’s that the shipping container suggests a world in which everything is contingent and temporary, and humans are doing little more than camping. That’s not the way to produce good offices, or housing, or cities.