Forty Five Year Old Airstream Trailer Gets a Makeover by Norwich Architectural Students for AIA Show

Text: T T
BY BILL CRONEY
The Northfield News


Norwich Architecture Program student Jess Dahline (center) helps his classmates Caleb Menaco (left) and Pedro Rodriguez assemble some shelving for the 1969 Airstream travel trailer the class is re-working into a display vehicle for the American Institute of Architecture (Vermont Chapter). The 45-year old trailer was entirely gutted and all the interior work has been computer designed and cut on a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine. The project is scheduled to be finished in early May. Norwich Architecture Program student Jess Dahline (center) helps his classmates Caleb Menaco (left) and Pedro Rodriguez assemble some shelving for the 1969 Airstream travel trailer the class is re-working into a display vehicle for the American Institute of Architecture (Vermont Chapter). The 45-year old trailer was entirely gutted and all the interior work has been computer designed and cut on a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine. The project is scheduled to be finished in early May. The Vermont Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) is going to be able to take its show on the road soon thanks to a lot of help from third and fourth year architecture students at Norwich University's School of Architecture and Art.

The class of 8 men and 2 women are taking something old and making it new again for the AIA. Specifically a 45-year old travel trailer! And, in addition to giving the antique (Cars are considered antique after 25 years, so why not travel trailers?) vehicle a new life they are giving it a new purpose.

Tolya Stonorov an Asst. Professor of Architecture at Norwich and a principal at Stonorov Workshop, in Montpelier, is in charge of the project. She explained the plan and some of the problems her class has faced in tackling the project this semester. “The project was conceived of by our dean, Aron Temkin, at an AIAVT, American Institute of Architects- Vermont Chapter, retreat. It took shape when AIAVT applied for an innovation grant from AIANational to turn a 21 foot 1969 Globetrotter Airstream (trailer) into the ARCHISTREAM, a mobile teaching tool and traveling gallery for architecture in Vermont. AIAVT received the largest innovation grant in the countryabout $42,000. The “Archistream” will showcase Vermont Architects who have won AIA awards and serve as a way to reach out to more rural communities, allowing people to understand modern architecture in Vermont. As construction began, the inside was almost entirely gutted: interior paneling was removed and new wiring was installed throughout. Our lighting will be entirely LED so it’s very environmentally friendly. The students have done virtually all of the work, but we did bring in an electrician for the wiring. AIAVT plans on implementing solar power as soon as possible. Currently, we are working on the design for the outdoor furniture. The seating will be set up outside when the displays are in progress, but it has to be sized so it can be stored inside when the trailer is on the move. The students are working incredibly hard and members of faculty are putting in extra hours as well. We plan on completing the project by May 2nd. It’s a tight finishing date but I have confidence that we can do it. The Archistream design/build studio has been an incredibly unique experience for the students at Norwich. They are continually faced with the minute realities and decisions that have to be made on every part of the project - aspects that you just never encounter with studio projects. For example, we are currently designing and fabricating the window pulls - a design problem in itself. How does a plywood fin (on the interior shelving) meet the floor? How does the floor meet the wall if there is no trim? The studio has worked incredibly well as a group to solve all of these issues that are constantly arising in such a design-build project.

The students range in backgrounds from someone who has built at a high level of craft for years to someone who has barely picked up a hammer. Everyone has embraced the build process and craft has been something we have talked about and emphasized since the beginning (of the project). The limited size and space (of the trailer) has not hindered us. We have tried to be extremely organized, so that there’s a core working on the interior while other people are focused on fabrication, finishing and design details, Professor Stonorov said.

Michael Cavanaugh, one of the students involved in what is called The “Archistream” project, was on site at Disney Field last Friday to describe the steps involved in the four- month project. “We started off with different materials- doing material studies. Seeing what we could work with and seeing what would work best in the Airstream itself. Once we figured out what would work and what wouldn’t work we began with the interior design, we broke up into groups to look at different design options in the interior. Once we decided what we wanted we just took off from there.

The biggest obstacle initially was repairing what was damaged. There were holes. There were animal “leftovers”. It is nearly 50 years old and you could see the history behind it. The fiberglass arch in the (interior) front had to be cut out so the whole inside cap had to be replaced. From there, we didn’t have any panels so we had to manufacture it. Jess Dahline came up with a system of panelized aluminum sheets, the result is beautiful. He recreated the entire shell for the front endcap,” Michael Cavanaugh said. “The challenge is how to remake a compound curve... it is very difficult thing to fabricate,” Professor Stonorov added.

“The way we broke up much of the building process,, said Cavanaugh, is like an assembly line. We have teams who are cutting

(on the Computer Numerical Control machine) and from there we have students sanding, finishing and then installing. All the prep work has already been done when the built in furniture (fins and shelves) is installed.When the antique Airstream shortly becomes the “Archistream” the Vermont Chapter of the American Institute of Architects will be ready. The “Archistream won’t just showcase AIA-Vt. Accomplishments.“The trailer will also be available to visit schools, town halls, and county fairs; really the options are infinite. Who knows—we might ignite a spark in one of the students that leads to the next Frank Lloyd Wright,” Diantha Korzun, of the Vermont Chapter of AIA said. It will also showcase the hard work, efforts and skills of the Norwich Students and their Professor.

2014-04-24 / Front Page

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