Local artist Julio Garcia turns a Port City byproduct into an enviable Zen dwelling and a cutting-edge example of urban reuse architecture. Photography by Tessa Blumenberg.
Julio Garcia is guided by a strong spiritual compass and a critical eye for design. In fall 2009, the artist-contractor purchased two shipping containers with the intent of converting them to livable space. Not long after that, while on vacation, he passed a container-turned-hostel along Uruguay’s Atlantic Coast highway. For Julio, stumbling across this recently completed conversion was a sign that he was headed in the right direction with his own pursuit.
Given Julio’s focus on the juxtaposition of the industrial and natural realms, the containers were delivered by a trucking company to a forested backyard in east Savannah. Great care was taken not to disturb the existing lush landscape.
A great subscriber to aesthetics and non-traditional methods and materials, Julio merged his fields of expertise to create 1,200 square feet of livable space from essentially waste materials. In September 2011, after only six months soup-to-nuts, he unveiled a structural masterpiece forged in the fires of sleek, contemporary design and optimal flow.
“As a young artist, I worked construction to support my career,” says Julio. “I was naturally drawn to the work, learning first from laborers and eventually from engineers and architects. I live by the law of ‘less is more’ and I design with this in mind. I believe in minimal design without compromising function.”
The container movement emerged as a small but trending global concept, an eco- and socio-conscious resolution that refashions the overabundant byproduct of global consumerism to solve the growing housing problem. A Cuban émigré, Garcia at once sympathized with the humanity of the concept and saw the limitlessness of its scale and scope.
With the backyard container-studio now complete, Julio is still thinking outside the box, literally and figuratively. He is currently in Miami, designing an eight-container structure that will function as a pop-up venue, offering exhibition and multimedia installation spaces to galleries and artists during December’s Art Basel.
1. With the US-China trade deficit, shipping containers are more plentiful than ever, especially in a port city like Savannah.
2. They’re cheap! Look to purchase a container for $500 to $1,000 and convert it to livable space for $73 to $90 per square foot. Compare that to $200 per square foot on average for new construction.
3. Built to withstand ocean transport, containers are quite durable. Given their resistance to storms, fire, insects, and mold, they serve as dependable dwellings.
4. Go green. Increasingly, containers end up in shipping graveyards, so reuse architecture is a win-win for you and Mother Nature.