6 Amazing Ways Berlin Is Recycling Old Shipping Containers

By Susannah Edelbaum |

© Ludger Paffrath

Massive shipping containers may bring grey industrial ports to mind, but in Berlin, businesses housed in used shipping containers—from art spaces to DIY fish farms—have proliferated in the city. They embody Berlin’s ongoing evolution from what its former mayor called “poor but sexy” to fashionably thrifty, and green to boot. Next time you’re in town, here are six containers where you can eat, drink, farm, swim and even sleep.

1. Till The Cows Come Home

Till The Cows Come Home is a tiny, creative vegetarian restaurant housed in a single shipping container in the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood. The restaurant serves food featuring regional ingredients, like their “Greet the Circus with a Smile” (landbrot—German sourdough—with local lemon butter and jam) and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (gluten-free banana-chocolate bread).

2. Platooon Kunsthalle

Next door to Till the Cows Come Home is a soaring, multi-purpose art space made from 34 recycled, stacked shipping containers. Besides hosting changing exhibits, film screenings and weekly street-food events, Platoon Kunsthalle houses a permanent bar and coffee counter and plays host to the occasional Berlin Fashion Week runway.

3. Badeschiff

This seasonal pool, set directly into the Spree River, was created out of a former shipping cargo container. An adjacent dock, open-air bar and sandy makeshift beach complete the shipping-container-turned-swimming-hole summer compound.

4. Prinzessinnengärten

The nonprofit group Nomadisch Grün, which specializes in turning unused city areas into green spaces, planted this urban farm in 2009 on a former wasteland. Plants grow in raised beds and the project’s workshops and seasonal café, bar and restaurant are housed in—you guessed it: shipping containers. Come to get your hands dirty during a lesson in biodiversity, stay for the locally grown stuffed zucchini.

5. ECF Farmsystems

ECF specializes in aquaculture, using hydroponic greenhouses built in shipping containers and fish farms, which supply the plants with nutrients. Farmers grow 400 varieties of fruits, vegetables and flowers using ECF systems. The company’s own Containerfarm is open for tours and the occasional barbecue at Malzfabrik, an 1800s brewery re-made into a vast mixed-use compound housing start-ups, art galleries and nonprofits.

6. EBA51

Cool in the summer, warm in the winter and sustainable through and through, this shipping container project offers ideal, affordable student housing. Made from hundreds of upcycled containers, the “rustiest student village in Germany" is set in woodsy Plänterwald, adjacent to the abandoned-but-iconic East Berlin amusement park, Spreepark. The first students moved in this past April and the rest of the units are fully rented for the winter 2014/15 semester.

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