Shipping container upcycling trend hits Saint John

Tiny homes, swimming pools and hydroponics growing operations are just some of the creative uses people are finding for old shipping containers — and now, the upcycling trend is coming to Saint John.

It's appropriate, given the prominent profile of the containers on Saint John's west side skyline.  It's estimated that as many as 2 million of the giant metal containers are decommissioned every year, according to Victoria Clarke, executive director of Discover Saint John.

Discover Saint John is inviting local architects, engineers and designers to submit their creative shipping container concepts to the Cargo-Tecture Design Competition.

The competition, which is part of Canada 150 celebrations in Saint John, invites teams to "think within the parameters of a 20-foot shipping container," Clarke said.

Participating teams are being asked to submit designs that re-imagine shipping containers in new and unexpected ways — from retail and living spaces to art installations.

"It's a funky trend," Clarke said, "but it's also trying to have a positive impact on the environment and upcycle these materials."

Think inside the box

The winner will have to think outside the box, but inside a budget.

Discover Saint John will reimburse participants up to $4,000, which means it might be wise to assemble a team and funding.

But "outside the restrictions, you can turn this into whatever you want," Clarke said. "We really want people to think creatively."

Submissions will be evaluated by a jury and will be made up of artists and businesspeople, who will select the top five designs to be executed over three months.

The winning designs will be on display for people to explore — and vote on their favourites — at the Area 506 Festival in Saint John from Aug. 5 to 6. The  winner will receive a cash prize of $1,500, with second and third places receiving  $1,000 and $500.

Submissions are open until April 21 via Discover Saint John's site.

"Shipping has always been part of Saint John's heritage," Clarke said. "Being able to celebrate that along with Canada 150 is pretty exciting."