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Why a Port-a-bach

“It’s a highly crafted interior, lined in plywood that gives it a very solid feeling, but still with a lovely connection to the environment”

Container Bach

Why a Port-a-bach

Portability was a key factor in the design of Port-A-Bach, a prototype for up-cycling shipping containers by Wellington architects Bonnifait + Giesen. William Giesen says the idea first took root in 2001 based around the family bach at Matapouri beach on Maori leased land.

“We started thinking about what we could put on the land that was more permanent than a caravan but that we could also take away in the future. Something mobile that still had the spatial feeling of a house. We had the idea of folding down one side of a container and covering it with glass to create a more spacious feeling. It can be folded up, packaged away and moved as you would a container.”

Built in Hangzhou, China, the Port-A-Bach includes living, kitchen and bathroom in one module with the option for adding more for sleeping. Built into the southern wall of the container are the kitchen, bathroom, built-in bed, and storage each with its own screen for separation.

Container Bach

Designed to comfortably sleep two adults and two children, Port-A-bach architects Bonnifait + Giesen were also keen to make their prototype as eco-friendly as possible with fittings for wind and solar power equipment available. The architects realised there were few removable holiday home options for remote, leased or environmentally sensitive land.

“The idea was for it to be fully self- enclosed,” says William. “It’s a highly crafted interior, lined in plywood that gives it a very solid feeling, not like being in a tent or caravan, but still with a lovely connection to the environment. With the canvas awning and the deck folded out this creates quite a large living platform (approximately 6 x 5.5 metres).”

Port-A-Bach’s sustainability credentials include not only the upcycling of redundant containers, but also the capability for solar and/or wind generation that allows owners to feed electricity back to the grid when not in use. Floors, walls, ceiling and furniture are all made of plantation grown bamboo plywood. “We used a single material to give a feeling of spaciousness in the interior. It also allows people to put their own personalities into the building, their own culture.”

Although mass production of Port-A-Bach is not on the agenda for Bonnifait + Giesen they are happy to design individual container baches. “Up-cycling containers can be an effective answer for large-scale projects and if portability, site access, robustness and security are issues, but for one-off holiday houses it is not a cheap option,” says William. Again due to site variables such as foundation requirements, compliance, septic treatment, and water it’s not possible to give general estimates for the cost of a Port-A-Bach.


The port-a-bach can be transported by truck or helicopter, secured when not in use and easily connected to existing services.

The Port-A-Bach

Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photography by: Paul McCredie.

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