In conversation with The Business Standard architects of ‘River and Rain’, an architectural firm, tells their story of building a shipping container house called ‘Escape Den’, which is exclusively a private property located in the suburbs of Bashundhara
As life in Dhaka is becoming increasingly cluttered, a client wanted an escape from the bustling megacity. Having a piece of land of their own in the suburbs of Bashundhara residential area, they wanted to build something innovative on it.
The architects of 'River and Rain' scouted the site and brought forth the idea of building a shipping container house of some sort. The client loved the idea and agreed to that. But building a shipping container house in Bangladesh is easier said than done.
Eventually, Escape Den, the beautiful shipping container house, became a reality in 2017. But the groundwork behind it itself is a story worth telling.
Many architectural firms only work during the design phase of a project and later, a third party is customarily assigned to carry out the construction. For Escape Den, 'River and Rain' took both the responsibilities on their shoulders.
Initially, the architectural firm imagined a design using six/seven shipping containers. However, the soil condition of the site was not adequate for withstanding the load of such a structure. So, the architects opted for four containers for structural advantage as well as cost minimisation.
Shipping container houses are nothing new in the architecture world. But 'River and Rain' fused the feel of switching from indoor to outdoor to indoor atmosphere of Bangladeshi rural households with Escape Den, and the result was exquisite.
The walls around the premise are made of various green plants and bamboo. The containers are faced away from each other. There is a lawn, a tennis court, and a bit of greenery around the premises.
An 'open to sky' feeling which is missing in urban houses was carried out while designing Escape Den. The architects made sure that the owners get to enjoy the captivating view of the sky every time while moving from one room to another.
Many container houses are built as an independent structure. But in the case of Escape Den, a secondary structural material was used to give the containers a floating vibe. Steel columns and beams were used for framing and the containers were inserted in between.
Container houses rarely make connection with the outdoor space which makes them a bit introverted in terms of style. But, when it came to Escape Den, the architects wanted to celebrate the outdoor area of the house as well so that the user may feel a bond between the interior and the outdoor, making it more lively compared to traditional container structures.
Almost every component used in this house ranging from the steel frames to the doors inside, are recycled materials. Also, the steel frame used as the base structure is not constructed by welding; rather, nuts and bolts were used.
To preserve the original countryside feel of the containers, rather than giving it a paint job, the architects kept that as it was before.
The two storied structure has something new to offer on every floor. The open kitchen, dining area and a lounge is located on the elevated ground floor. The flight of stairs goes up to the next level, where the glassed living room is located. If you go up further, on the first floor, two bedrooms are there with a roof of green on the ceiling.
From floor to ceiling glass windows the rooms allow to embrace natural lights - making the house so vibrant. When talking about the client, 'River and Rain' expresses their admiration for the owners of Escape Den. Their encouragement gave the architects the scope to build this incredible house amid the concrete humdrum of Dhaka. "When a client is supportive, it gets easier for the architects to make their dream projects a reality," the architects said about the client.
Years ago, the piece of land where Escape Den stands now, was submerged under water with immersed weeds all around. Four years into its existence, the house has become somewhat of an icon in the architecture scene. "We know houses like these are not meant to last forever. Maybe a high-rise building will take its place in the future. But why not enjoy the moments with it while you can?" the architects questioned.
Kazi Fida Islam, Md. Abdul Awyal, Sumaiya Shameem, Mousumi Kabir and Irtefa Iradat were the architects who made this project come into reality.