Bard College Media Lab comprises four containers that are stacked two wide and two high, forming a larger rectangular structure.
It took just half a day for MB Architecture, led by Maziar Behrooz, to assemble the units on site. A few days later, the 960-square-foot (89-square-metre) university building was fully operational.
"The project arose out of a grant of $100,000 (£72,000) and was prefabricated, delivered and installed in half a day at a cost slightly over $200,000 (£144,000)," said MB architects. "The budget required that we explore options beyond conventional construction."
The design is based on MB Architecture's prototype prefabricated Insta House – a two-storey home with a bedroom upstairs and main living area on the ground floor, built in the Hamptons in 2009.
Adapting the layout for educational purposes, the studio kept a similar open-plan main living area for the media lab, but included a smaller lofter section upstairs that serves as a private office.
To construct the prefabricated building, the site just needed a concrete foundation. Fabrication of the black-painted containers was completed by Maine-based SnapSpace Solutions.
The dark industrial-looking structure contrasts with the wooded site, located in the middle of the Bard College campus and close to the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts designed by Frank Gehry.
The building is intended to be multi-purpose, and will rotate between various departments at the college, so flexibility was critical. A large pivoting garage door along the back left side opens to a grassy space. This indoor-outdoor design allows the building to transform into a large place for hosting performances and other events.
From the front, three of the four shipping containers have glazed sections, and the front door leads to a large work table. On the rear facade is a double-height wall lined with windows.
Shipping containers continue to be repurposed for architecture projects, from wooded weekend retreats and urban dwellings on tight sites, to a speculative proposal for a splayed home in the California desert.
Photography is by Matthew Carbone.