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INTERVIEW: Architect David Hertz on how to build with old planes
Inhabitat: When did it first occur to you to use an old airplane to create parts of the house?
David: I have been interested in what we Take, Make and Waste, from our society’s waste streams for almost 3 decades. My early explorations with the Syndecrete product in the early 1980’s experimented with the detritus of our built environment in creative ways, so the concept of repurposing and the purpose of re- purpose is a foundational concept as well as other investigations. This project was very much organically derived and inspired by the remote site, a 55-acre property at the western edge of the Santa Monica mountain range west of Malibu, California, a property with several pads and unique topography with panoramic views looking out to a nearby mountain range, a valley and the ocean and Channel Islands beyond. The site was previously owned and developed by the Hollywood set designer Tony Duquette who developed over 21 unique structures incorporating found objects from all over the world. In 1995 the Malibu fire destroyed all but a few steel “Pagoda” like structures.
When I first visited the site I was struck by the fantastic views, but also the creativity by which Duquette appropriated found objects and made them look as if they were originally crafted like traditional indigenous structures. The use of reclaimed and repurposed objects offers a continuum of the Duquette philosophy and is somewhat of a “Phoenix Rising” conceptually from the ashes of the prior Duquette structures.
The first time I had thought about using actual large cut sections of an airplane was standing on the project site, and imagining a floating curved roof. I drew a sketch that showed an elliptical roof section, which reminded me of a laminar flow diagram of an airplane wing. At first, I thought about trying to construct a wing shaped roof, and then it occurred to me… why not just use a wing? A wing is an ideal self supporting structure that cantilevers off a fuselage and is incredibly efficient, in that it achieves the highest strength using the lightest weight and resources.
In searching for inspiration, I imagined a roof structure that would allow for an un-obstructed view of the mountain range and distant views and did not want a lot of structure obstructing the views. The client, a woman, requested curvilinear / feminine shapes for the building. The progenitor of the building’s form was envisioned as a Lautnerseque curved roof floating over the site and cascading down the site. It soon became apparent, that in fact, re-using large sections of an airplane wing itself could work as an ideal form while minimizing resources and transportation to the remote site, in contrast with typical of conventional construction where thousands of disparate pieces are transported long distances, none of which fit and 30% of which are then hauled away as construction and demolition waste.
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