The reason why many of New York City's portside streets are paved with cobblestones is simple: in olden days, cargo ships from Europe came to America loaded with cobblestones for ballast, unloaded them, and shipped back out laden with New World goods. As the cobblestones piled up, the idea to pave roads with them killed two birds with one stone: new roads made with existing materials that required no further manufacturing.
A successor to that idea is now underway not with cobblestones, but with shipping containers.
Cheap, strong and easily transportable by boat, truck or train, [shipping containers] now litter the ports of America as mementos of our Asian-trade imbalance. (Many more full containers arrive on our shores than depart, so ports either ship them back empty--to the tune of about $900 per--or sell them.)
Hurricane proof, flood proof, fire proof, these metal Lego blocks are tough enough to be stacked 12-high empty--and thus can be used in smaller multistory buildings. Used containers (which can be picked up for $1,500 to $2,000) often have teak floors and sometimes are insulated. The bright orange, blue and rust corrugated boxes may not appeal to everyone. But contemporary hipsters find them not just the ultimate in postmodern appropriation but aesthetically pleasing as well.
Click here for the full article on architects turning shipping containers into homes.