This original 1959 Airstream found abandoned at a horse farm in California has been rescued and carefully restored into an amazing retro-chic mobile studio. The project was carried out by landscape architect Andreas Stavropoulos, who is also the founder of firm XS LAND and the co-founder of ChickenCribs.com. In an article he wrote for Dwell, he explains how it all started: “First came the idea. Then came the late nights of Craigslist searching. And then it happened quickly: a trip to a derelict horse ranch in the Salinas Valley, an exchange of cash in an old barn, and a harrowing towing adventure up Highway 101 netted me my current abode—a 1959 Airstream travel trailer”.
The metamorphosis happened at a friend’s sculpture studio, and it was almost like an archeological dig. While they were cleaning up the travel trailer they found all sorts of artifacts and objects belonging to people that lived inside since some stranger first purchased it in 1959 – mix tapes, scrawled recipes, and wrinkled photographs, and other objects from the past. The Airstream is now kept in the back garden of a co-op in North Berkeley. The bushy foliage and the chickens create a peaceful, fresh-from-the-field atmosphere.
The renovation took a lot of care and creativity from his owner. While he was doing the restoration work he was thinking already about his next step. With just 150 square feet to work with, the architect covered the whole floor with sustainable cork, added track lighting to the ceiling, and painted it non-toxic lime green, leaving the riveted aluminum end caps to expose the craftsmanship’s work.
He then added custom-designed cabinets and furniture to fit the organically shaped interiors and removed the sewage facilities completely to free up extra space. The original stove was kept, and an inexpensive recycled aluminum sheet texturized with a ball-pen hammer was stuck to the wall. Medium-sized windows allow natural light to enter the trailer while an off-the-shelf track lighting system playfully crawls along the ceiling providing extra light. The bed is 7 feet long and it hides a useful wide drawer underneath. Stripped paint reveals the beautiful riveting at the ends of the Airstream. Stavropoulos also renovated the outside of the trailer, polishing the aluminum skin, restoring the retro lights, and retouching the original California license plate.
Stavropoulos’s obsession with mobility, modularity, and affordability began long before the existence of his Airstream. As a self-employed architect he addresses the problem of the lack of connection between the land and the architect. In his owns words:
“Whereas landscape architects once spent significant time on the site, the profession now finds some of the most creative minds shoehorned into cubicles. This seemed like a loss to me, and I wondered how it might be possible to create a space for real understanding within the profession—the kind of understanding that occurs from seeing a day of shadows move across a place, or listening to and observing people in a space”.
With this in mind, the architect created a mobile studio that allows him to work from any site. The mobile studio connects him with each project’s environment, providing him with a deep understanding of the site’s architectural needs.
Photos © Mark Compton