South Australian architect, builder and designer Damien Chwalisz has been making headlines thanks to a string of projects he’s completed recently using shipping containers as the primary structure.

Chwalisz was the subject of a feature in Adelaide’s City Mag which focussed on the potential of shipping containers as an alternative to conventional housing and office construction.

But while the shipping container story has been done to death, Chwallisz’s fascination with container conversions is different in that it looks at the potential for containers to be used as the base and shell for highly customised and sustainable buildings.

Chwallisz’s container conversions range from single-dwellings and offices to art studios and lounging spaces, nothing out of the ordinary, but they’re also very different to your run-of-the-mill shipping container builds which critics love to hate.

A project on his property in the Adelaide foothills for example is barely recognisable as a shipping container. It’s clad, lined and filled with recycled and repurposed materials like timber, steel and old windows which Chwallisz says is a great way to keep costs down, improve the environmental footprint of a shipping container build and also add textures and interest.

It also features a bolt-on roof structure which further enhance the inherent energy efficiency of the container, and was built entirely offsite and dropped onto site ready-to-go.

While Chwalisz’s fascination with shipping containers in architecture has now developed into a creative exploration, it actually began with a challenging residential project in the Adelaide CBD.

The project required two towers of containers to be created, each four storeys high, joining them along the long edge, and setting them down on a tiny block in the middle of the city. Shipping containers allowed the construction to be completed in an offsite workshop under controlled conditions and for them to erect the four-storey structure in three days without long road closures.

Chwalisz’s container projects have evolved from this discovery of their practicality into a quest to create bespoke architectural designs using shipping containers that produce sustainable and interesting outcomes. 

Photography by Julian Cebo