ARCKIT Model 18 - Urban Rigger

Featuring Sydney Edwards

Architecture is basically a container of something. I hope they will enjoy not so much the teacup, but the tea.
— Yoshio Taniguchi

Case Study

Urban Rigger, designed by Bjarke Ingles from BIG, is a Danish affordable housing start up that looks to respond to Copenhagen's housing storage by proposing to build container apartment complexes that float on the city's underdeveloped harbor. Designed with a modular housing system, the complexes can be quickly and easily manufactured and chained together. In the future, there might be dozens of these units along the harbor, housing students close to the university campus. So far there is one existing prototype built this year, named, Urban Rigger which is made using nine shipping containers to provide housing for 9+ residents. 

Parti Diagraming

At first, a buoyant platform is built to house all of the MEP equipment. One top of that, three shipping containers are placed in a triangle to create an interior courtyard. This optimized arrangement gives viewsfor each of the pods while maximizing the open and available floor area. The ends of the containers do not meet and instead are spaced out in two separate hyper-truncated triangle patterns forming an overall hexagonal shape. This allows for future expansion and the ability to daisy-chain multiple units. From here, another layer of six total containers is added in the same fashion as the floor below but offset 60 degrees. When completed, each complex or "Urban Rigger" provides the residents with a central communal courtyard perfect for community activities.

Essential basic drivers of student migration, such as the availability of centralized, sustainable and affordable student housing, is not only elemental, but cardinal in the quest to inspire and attract the best and the brightest to conquer the challenge of our exciting, but fragile future.
— Bjarke Ingles

At 680 square meters per complex, the residents have access to their own "bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen, but also have access to a 160 square meter common green courtyard, kayak landing, bathing platform, barbecue area, and 65 square meter communal roof terrace." To meet the carbon neutral requirement, the complex is powered in combination by solar energy and a hydro based system that uses heat exchange mechanics from the seawater. The structure uses a NASA created "aerogel" to insulate the interiors of the containers that are made entirely out of "Corten" steel. All throughout the complex there are special hyper efficient pumps that were installed to control and manage the heating, circulating, drinking and waste water. 

Shipping container architecture is not easy. Its not as simple as it looks being just a series of stacked blocks. There is quite an intensive process and a lot of resources and materials goes into preparing the containers for residential use. If done incorrectly, the disadvantages very quickly begin to outweigh the advantages that these projects aim for respective to sustainability. With careful planning and detailing, BIG was able to save on materials, energy and cost, thus, creating a domestically built energy efficient $700 per square foot space.

This prototype unit is docked in Copenhagen at the moment and BIG is planning to add 24 more complexes offering a total of 288 total apartments. With requests from all over the world, BIG says that It plans to build up to 18,000 complexes in the next 10 years! 

While there are certainly thousands of shipping container projects, BIG has been able to create a vibrant aspect to container living while mastering the concepts for hyper efficient manufacturing and life cycle analysis. As still only a prototype, there is still room for improvement to their system to create more efficient, flexible and cost effective variants. If this can be done successfully in the near future, we may see more of these ideas pop up in cities around bodies of water. Big's design definitely lends itself well in proving to be a unique way of not only addressing affordable housing but, our increasing problems of urban density, real estate values and global sea level rise. Keep up the great work!


First and Second Floor Plan Views

Project Details

Modeling shipping containers is extremely easy with Arckit. At a scale of 1:48, a forty foot container translates to an even 10 Arckit units. Once we had the base containers built, the biggest challenge of the project was to figure out a way to connect the containers to form a hexagonal shape with it's underlying equilateral triangle form. With traditional Arckit methods and the current components, one is only able to create edges at 45 or 90 degree angles. Shown in the video documentation (1 min 20 sec), we went around this limitation by using two connector pieces with three floor components all arranged in a way to allow for free range of motion. After connecting all of the first floor containers together using this system, we were able to create the exact shape of the Urban Rigger and the model was able to adapt to it's new triangular form.

Once this form was set, everything seemingly just fell into place and worked out perfectly. We were able to construct the second floor apartments with this same method and allow the staircase to take shape between the two staggered floors.

To solve the issue of connecting the first floor and the second floor together and create and flat foundation, the floor plates of the second floor containers are inverted upside down to allow it to simply rest on top of the first floor (Smooth side to smooth side). By doing this, one can create offset rooms at any angle without worrying about the standard connection points.

Overall this model was a great challenge and Sydney and I learned some new ways of pushing the Arckit system to it's limits. We will definitely be using some of these principles in our future models so stay tuned for more!

Photo Gallery

Video Documentation


Sydney Edwards is a junior at the University of Maryland. She is currently pursuing a Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering and a minor in International Engineering. Her career interests are sustainability energy, smart homes/devices, and the technological advancement of underdeveloped areas.

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Thank you!

All Urban Rigger renderings and photos above are licensed and copyrighted property of BIG at and