All the world's a stage: Construction imminent on shipping container replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

We hope that as we build the real thing, people and donors and investors and sponsors will really weigh in
– Angus Vail

Construction is about to start on a close replica of William Shakespeare’s famous Globe Theatre, with only two key differences from the original: this version will be located in Detroit and it will be built entirely out of stacked shipping containers.

The Container Globe is the brainchild of entrepreneur Angus Vail, who wants to build cost-effective venues around the world to host performances of the Bard and other live events.

After a long-running search for a location, Vail has decided to build a prototype theatre in the yard of a Detroit school building built in the 1900s. Here it will be part of a wider art project, called Galapagos, which is being developed as an incubator and performance space for the city.

Architecture studios Perkins Eastman and Cost+Plus have completed the design brief for the first Container Globe – described as “a punk reimagining” of Shakespeare’s concept, while the New York office of multidisciplinary firm Arup have provided consultation on the acoustics, lighting, fire safety and accessibility aspects.

The layout will closely mirror that of the original Globe Theatre, which was built in 1599 in the London borough of Southwark. Designed as a theatre in the round, huge crowds could stand as close as possible to the action, with it not uncommon for spectators to leap on stage to join the scripted brawls, sword fights and moments of high drama.

Vail is seeking to mirror this electric atmosphere, “which makes the plays more accessible, and just plain more fun, for people to watch, rather than just sitting back in a dark theatre.”

The galleries, stage and backstage areas of the Detroit iteration will all be created using stacked and fastened shipping containers, scaffolding and other readily-available building materials. The theatre will have a demountable base, meaning it can be either temporary or permanent addition to the city.

“We're going to start fabricating the containers as we go, and start building a prototype on site, so we can experiment with it, get the wrinkles out and make the requisite mistakes, and work towards the ‘complete’ Container Globe,” Vail told CLADglobal. “We hope that as we build the real thing, people and donors and investors and sponsors will really weigh in.”

A crowdfunding campaign will be launched on 16 September on the Patronicity online platform, which promotes projects that benefit Detroit economically, artistically and socially.

The design team has previously set an estimated budget of US$6m (€5m, £4.6m) for a single theatre.

Vail has previously spoken about the potential to build different types of Globe in different cities, depending on local requirements.

“We’ve had people interested in the Globe just as a theatre and music venue, who just think it’s a cool venue and don't care much that it’s based on Shakespeare's original,” he told CLADglobal when the project was first announced. “Some investors want to have it totally enclosed and set up as a permanent venue, so perhaps we will end up with a range of different models: a fully loaded ‘Cadillac’, a mid-level basic ‘Honda Civic’ and a bare-bones easily moveable ‘Corolla’ based on prices ranges and customers' different needs.”

From hotels to breweries, spas and gyms, shipping containers are increasingly being used as a primary construction material due to their strength, availability and relatively low cost.

William Shakespeare  Globe Theatre  Angus Vail  Container Globe  architecture  design  theatre  Detroit  Galapagos 
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‘Punk reimagining’ of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre uses shipping containers and scaffolding

Construction is about to start on a close replica of William Shakespeare’s famous Globe Theatre, with only two key differences from the original: this version will be located in Detroit and it will be built entirely out of stacked shipping containers. The Container Globe is the brainchild of entrepreneur Angus Vail, who wants to build cost-effective venues around the world to host performances of the Bard and other live events.
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The Container Globe is the brainchild of entrepreneur Angus Vail, who wants to build cost-effective venues around the world / Container Globe
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