Urban Rigger

by | 02. Oct 2016

Project | Residential | Sustainable

The Urban Rigger student housing floating in Copenhagen Harbor. Urban Rigger, Bjarke Ingels Group. Photo © Laurent de Carniere

By Benjamin Wells

Urban Rigger, a Danish housing startup, has responded to Copenhagen’s affordable housing shortage by proposing a use for the largest undeveloped area of the city center – the harbor itself. With the help of Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), they have designed a low-cost, modular housing system that can be altered, replicated and floated. If BIG have their way, Copenhagen’s harbor will soon be dense with floating shipping containers hosting young academics.


The shipping container housing has been launched not far from BIG’s Waste-to-Energy plant (under construction, top right). Urban Rigger, Bjarke Ingels Group. Photo © Bjarke Ingels Group

Just a few kilometers from BIG’s highly anticipated  ski slope incinerator, the first prototype of this shipping container housing has been launched, named Urban Rigger. Whilst more modest in scale than many of BIG’s recent projects, Urban Rigger’s inherent reproducibility gives it a much wider scope. Built from nine shipping containers, the project takes advantage of excess container stock from the declining shipping industry in Western Europe, transforming redundant industrial infrastructure into much needed housing stock.


The design transforms unused shipping containers into student housing. Urban Rigger, Bjarke Ingels Group. Photo © Laurent de Carniere

The architects propose that Urban Rigger can be duplicated in other harbor cities that lack space but need affordable student housing, and the standardized container system provides the flexibility for multiple configurations and scales. Whilst the design is intended to be tessellated, there is of course a limit to the available docking space in busy cities such as Copenhagen, where barges, tour boats, ferries and swimming platforms are all competing for space in the city center. Urban Rigger are hoping that local governments will invest in student housing by freeing up central docking areas, close to university campuses.

Essential basic drivers of the 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 challenges of our exciting but fragile future.”
/ Bjarke Ingels

Multiple stacked containers frame a central courtyard. Urban Rigger, Bjarke Ingels Group. Photo © Bjarke Ingels Group

Measuring 680 square meters, each collection of nine shipping containers contains fifteen living spaces organized around a central courtyard, all resting upon a floating platform. A rooftop terrace, kayak landing, bathing platform and other shared facilities aim to create a new form of communal living for students. Two staggered layers of stacked containers form a hexagonal courtyard space, and will allow for connections to adjacent units in the future. The overlapping forms frame views across the harbor, and the three rooftops provide space for a small lawn, a roof terrace and an array of solar panels.

Priced at $600 per month to rent, the units aim to be competitive with the Copenhagen housing market and affordable for the mass of students who often struggle to find accommodation. The units are also carbon neutral, taking advantage of solar energy and a hydro-based heat exchange system to ensure that running costs are kept to a minimum.


The design encourages swimming and kayaking in Copenhagen’s harbor. Urban Rigger, Bjarke Ingels Group. Photo © Laurent de Carniere


The three rooftops host a lawn, an array of solar panels and a rooftop terrace. Urban Rigger, Bjarke Ingels Group. Photo © Laurent de Carniere

Whilst there have been countless shipping container projects in recent years, BIG’s trademark playfulness manages to make Urban Rigger an original, joyful, and genuinely functional project. The unit is considered as an initial prototype, and BIG plan to continually upgrade the design to make it more efficient, flexible and cost effective. If they can both innovate and reduce the costs associated, variations of this project may well begin to appear across Europe – there are already plans to float a community of 300 homes in Gothenburg.


All of the bedrooms provide views over the harbor. Urban Rigger, Bjarke Ingels Group. Photo © Laurent de Carniere

As with many container projects, Urban Rigger has an inherently temporary aesthetic, but this seems to suit its function as short term housing that can be continually altered, updated and relocated. The design could prove to be invaluable in providing affordable housing in the context of increasing urban density, land values and rising sea levels. BIG certainly believe it will, proven by the fact that they’re planning to build an Urban Rigger for their interns.


The Urban Rigger floats amongst an array of extreme sports taking place in Copenhagen’s harbor. Urban Rigger, Bjarke Ingels Group. Photo © Laurent de Carniere


ARCHITECTBjarke Ingels Group