Mach 1: Arts & Event Venue Made from a Tangle of Shipping Containers

Scottish artist David Mach is best known for his sculptural installations and surreal collages, but his largest work yet turns a heap of 36 red shipping containers into a new arts and event space in Edinburgh. Named Mach1, the unusual building is a collaboration with architecture studio Dixon Jones, and will add a new point of interest to an undeveloped corner of Edinburgh Park, a 43-acre business park masterplanned by American architect Richard Meier.

The shape of the new building takes inspiration from piles of rocks on the Fife coastline, the color of nearby Forth Bridge and the industrial heritage of the area. Once completed, Mach 1 will stand 15 meters (about 49 feet) high and stretch 50 meters (about 164 feet) at its longest point. Inside, visitors will find a coffee bar and double-height exhibition space used to showcase the Edinburgh Park masterplan through drawings, information boards and scale models.

The project’s developers and investors, Parabola, plan to use the space as a marketing office for the complex as well as a flexible event venue. Construction on Mach1 is set to begin early next year, while other new developments in the park, like a new public square, offices, shops, restaurants and sports and leisure facilities are in various stages of planning and construction.

““I was already working with Pangolin on a few ideas with shipping containers when this opportunity came up,” says Mach in an interview with Edinburgh News. “I seem to have become an accidental architect with this, which I’m sure architects will have something to say about. But it’s not a pretend thing – it’s a real piece of architecture.”

“Shipping containers are really interesting to me architecturally. They are really honest and are also really familiar to people. They also go all over the world. But this will be different to anything else that has been built of them before, which is what you really want as an artist.”

“We’re still working out whether every bit of it will be from real shipping containers, but it will have to look as if they are all real containers and it will be very strong. You should be able to drive a tank over it. I think people will look at it and think they have seen it before, like a king of Inca thing you’d find hacking your way through the jungle.”

The leap from sculpture to architecture might seem unexpected, but this isn’t the first time Mach has experimented with shipping containers. Previously, the artist has incorporated them into sculptures like Sydney’s “It Take Two” and “The Temple at Tyre.”