Joshua District – Shipping Containers by Anita


The slogan “Recycle or Die” embossed on one of Joshua District’s walls sums up the environmentally friendly philosophy behind the creative enclave in the village of Kediri just north of Tanah Lot, a world away from the island’s chaotic tourist areas. Constructed out of steel shipping containers sourced from Indonesian harbors, the stylish complex is a playful reminder of the contrast between urban culture and Balinese nature, in this case the surrounding rice fields and quaint ocean views in the distance. “The idea was to create something unique that blends nature with industrial but recycled design,” says Petr Vancura who co-founded the project along with Lucas Cerny and Martina Cerna. “Even so, when we were standing in the middle of a construction site around three years ago, none of us were able to say what was going to happen and what the exact concept was. The place grew gradually and organically.”

The first shipping container villa was completed in 2014. Shortly after, the Czech trio received news from a friend who was so impressed with the unique abode, and its tranquil location, that he asked them to build a second villa for him. “A year after that job was completed, there were still just two shipping container villas in the middle of the rice fields with nothing else around. It meant no restaurants or places to get some decent food,” Petr says. “When another two investors asked us to build villas for them as well, the concept of Joshua District, as an interactive space where people from around the world can meet and share their skills and experiences, was born.”

Today the complex consists of a coffee shop, art gallery, fashion concept store and four villas, all constructed out of spruced up shipping containers. There is also a small half pipe for skateboarding. Interestingly, shipping containers – what Petr refers to as “cold steel boxes” – are definitely not the first thing that pops into mind when one visits Joshua District. Instead the villas feature wooden paneling that masks their steel core and gives them the appearance of wooden structures, and chic interiors dominated by concrete, glass, plasterboard and recycled materials such as driftwood. Not just quick and easy to assemble, Petr says that there are very few logistical limitations when it comes to building with shipping containers, other than actually obtaining the material. “They always find the way to transport the containers, but the timing is sometimes quite challenging. At the moment we are waiting for shipping containers that were supposed to be here three weeks ago. You know ‘Bali time’.”

Petr says that it only takes around six or seven months to build a villa out of shipping containers as the compact pieces are easy and relatively quick to connect together. They can also be configured into a wide variety of forms. “Of course, this timeframe also depends on the size of the villa and the complexity of its design. Literally it’s like playing with LEGO. Best of all, shipping containers make pretty stable structures, which can be an advantage, for example, during an earthquake,” he says, adding that the trio are currently in the process of constructing a photo studio and an additional villa.

While its design if definitely striking, Joshua District is primarily about people, and one of the aims of the project is the creation of a community of like-minded individuals. With this in mind, the trio are already planning future additions to make the space more community oriented, including a yoga shala, and a multifunctional space for events, conferences and workshops. Petr says that Joshua District is also currently organizing a cultural immersion program for 16 people. “It’s called ‘Trip to Paradise’ and it’s going to be awesome. Our guests will have an opportunity to not just see amazing places here in Bali but also do something creative with us at our workshops,” he says. “Overall we’d like to keep Joshua District as a meeting point for people from around the world who want to share and exchange skills and experiences. The vision is to improve the current state of things and leave a positive mark.”


While Joshua District is a growing project, shipping containers also make a perfect construction material for small businesses. As such, it is not surprising that over the past few years Bali has seen a plethora of pop-up restaurants and cafes fashioned out of these steel structures. Astrid Angeline, the co-founder of Halal Boys, a pop-up in a striking yellow container that sells chicken and lamb rice platters in Seminyak (and further afield in Jakarta) says that the relatively low cost, ease of assemblage and mobility make shipping containers a particularly appealing option for new businesses. According to Astrid, there are very few logistical challenges to setting up shop in a container, other than finding an appropriately priced location where the store can be visible. “I think nowadays people want something that is low cost and efficient. Lots of people have ideas and they want to implement them quickly and make profit back as soon as possible,” she says. “We were looking for something convenient and mobile, easy to move from location to location, and with a low set up cost. Shipping containers have done the job perfectly.”


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