Shipping Container Temporary Housing for Glass Blowers
The Bay Area of northern California is renowned for being very expensive. With Silicon Valley just up the road and full of millionaire IT execs, it has a problem in that the little guys who serve the high rollers have difficulty in living and working anywhere near. The Bay Area Glass Blowing Institute (BAGI) is one of these, a non-profit glass blowing organisation that serves the community, yet was asked by its previous landlords to get out as they wanted to sell the land to property developers. Being partially funded by the local government, they had to stay in the Bay Area, but where?
The solution came in the form of shipping containers. BAGI set up a studio and offices in three, 40ft shipping containers. One of the containers is an office, another a studio and a third is the gift shop.
What do you need to run a glass blowing studio?
There’s a very good video that covers the needs of a glass blowing studio that you can see above. Essentially you need a main furnace that is capable of heating up to 1400 degrees C, a reheating ‘glory hole’ to keep the glass hot as it is blown, and then you need the tools and space for blowing the glass itself. In addition, you need an annealer to cool the glass slowly once it has been turned into the shape you need.
A shipping container can be an oven in its own right, with its steel walls radiating the heat of the summer through the wall, but in the colder winter months this arrangement must be a blessing for those nearby as they can get some blessed warmth!
BAGI is a community organisation that largely looks after itself financially. People can pay to learn to blow glass (whether as a long-term hobby or in a corporate team building environment), while those less inclined to mess with furnaces can buy professionally made creations directly from the gift shop. In addition, the organisation has some support from the local government. It manages to meet its US$750,000 annual costs every year and has been operating successfully for around 20 years.
There’s a real sense of community around BAGI. One of its members is a technology executive from the accounting software company Intuit, and she meets up with her friends there once a week to blow glass. Speaking to KQED Arts, Dianne Weiss said, “It takes us outside of emails and business planning, and lets us do something physical and creative. And you work in a team, so it’s a deep community. I think of it as my church or temple”.
Dianne may unwittingly be part of the reason that BAGI had homelessness problems. The Bay Area is fantastically popular with a culture that is one of the hippest in the world. IT executives and other major businesses flock to set up shop there, and this has forced property prices to rocket.
BAGI had been in its old home in Japantown for 15 years when the landlords could no longer resist the advances of property developers who wanted to offer them big money for the site. BAGI couldn’t compete, and had to move off the premises. Being supported by the local government they had to remain in the area, and after an otherwise fruitless search found a site just outside San Jose by a former museum.
BAGI faced a problem in property prices that many communities around the world do. Where a city or region becomes famous for its charms, the prices rocket and ultimately the very people that made it the fantastic place to be can’t afford to live there. San Francisco is renowned for its ‘Boho’ culture, yet true Bohemians are often broke artists and writers. People move in to be among those artists and writers, forcing the artists and writers out. Money becomes self-defeating in this regard…
A hot future?
The shipping container home isn’t going to be permanent. The former museum is up for sale, and being owned by the local government is likely to be sold to BAGI. They are seeking to raise a relatively small sum – $90,000 – to secure their spot for the foreseeable future. The home will be permanent and there is far less risk of their landlords getting charmed by cash into evicting them. Such government support is essential for keeping cities and regions the way that made them attractive in the first place, and not rich people’s ghettos with a veneer of what drew them there.
Looking for second hand shipping containers?
This post is brought to you by Gateway Container Sales out of Brisbane, Australia. We sell on used shipping containers for reuse in a variety of ways, check out our blog for ideas and more articles. If you want to reuse a shipping container in any way you could imagine, call our sales team to discuss your needs or get a free quote!