INTERVIEW: Architect David Hertz on how to build with old planes

by , 03/04/15

747 House, David Hertz, inhabitat interview, upcycled project, boeing 747, recycled materials, david hertz architects

Inhabitat: When you first suggested the idea to your client, what did she think?

David: I presented the concept to the client by first submitting a series of close up photographs I took that showed the sculptural feminine curvilinear shapes, of the wings and fuselage sections. I showed these and asked the question; is this what you mean by feminine form? The answer was an unequivocal yes, as the forms were undeniable in their shape. This was important as an initial reference to an airplane may be at first met with a more masculine association. I then presented a series of simple photo montages where the wings were superimposed on the site, the client, intrigued, suggested we go visit an airplane up close to see what it actually might look like, as we often do not get up close to airplanes typically. Once she saw the enormity and sinuous curves of the craft up close her ability to visualize it was made more apparent and she became increasingly enthusiastic about the concept.

Inhabitat: When you first started did you envision using as much of the plane as you did? Or did you over time expand upon the idea with the intention of using as much of it as you could?

David: The initial idea was to use the wings of the 747 as the roofs, it then expanded into a master bedroom third tier where we used the horizontal stabilizers off the tail section. In as much as we had to purchase the entire 747 and would have been left with just the fuselage section left, we decided to digest the entire airplane by designing other structures incorporating the fuselage in its entirety. The concept being to “consume” the fuselage like an American Indian would consume every part of the buffalo.

Inhabitat: How hard was it to find a plane that would be suitable for your purposes? And why exactly did you choose a Boeing 747?

David: In researching airplane wings and superimposing different airplane types on the site to scale, the wing of a 747 200, at over 5,600 sq. ft., became a ideal configuration to maximize the views and provide a self supporting roof with minimal additional structural support needed. In researching aircraft we began to realize that there are hundreds of airplanes that have been retired to sit in the deserts of California and are sold at the price of their principal raw material, aluminum. I remember passing by thousands of airplane tails cast aside in the California desert. Innumerable airplanes sit desiccating in the desert of obsolescence. These Airplane Graveyards are bone-yards of used industrial technology, the casualty of entropy deriving from our addictions and submission to planned and perceived obsolescence. The ultimate act of down-cycling would be to take an airplane and turn it into an aluminum can… The material processes used to make the wing represent one of the most efficient uses of resources and human talent and ingenuity. Re-using the 747 also contains the recycling, the knowledge and the human capital that created it.

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