Bonnie Tsui is a contributing writer to CityLab. She writes frequently for The New York Times and is the author of American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods.
Guest accommodations that can be installed just about anywhere.
The historic port city of Antwerp has long had a glut of Chinese shipping containers rusting on its docks. To put the abandoned receptacles to use, three Belgian entrepreneurs — Geoffrey Stampaert, Didier Opdebeeck, and Ellen Wezenbeek — brainstormed the concept of a "moving hotel" for their new venture, Sleeping Around: its first pod of six containers houses four modern, fully-equipped hotel rooms with hardwood floors and rainshowers, plus a cafe/lounge and sauna.
The three friends came up with the idea in a pub one evening while discussing Opdebeeck’s new house. "He had to move from his apartment, and his new home wasn't ready yet," Wezenbeek says. "So he bought a container to live in for a few months."
The idea is that a container-based hotel can literally pop up anywhere in the world, preferably with a view. All Sleeping Around needs is 400 square meters of space, Wezenbeek says, and it can be installed just about anywhere, since it has its own water and waste treatment system and the ability to power itself with solar energy. Right now, it's perched along Antwerp’s River Scheldt, with an outdoor patio overlooking St. Anna’s Beach (the hotel has already traveled to three locations in its first five months). Future locations of the hotel are determined in part by audience input (log on to the website to suggest a spot). And no, you don't have to worry about booking a room in advance and the location suddenly changing on you: when you make a reservation online, dates are only available for the current location.
"We try to find unique places, where you have a good feeling about waking up in the morning with a spectacular view or environment," Wezenbeek says. Each new location is a surprise, but one leading contender is Ibiza, where the partners have already been offered a choice perch. Follow the hotel by live videostream and stay tuned for the next stop.