Archive for the ‘Adventure Pictures’ Tag

Airstream

Written by Lee Schneider

There’s a workshop in Orange, CA where Airstream trailers go to be reborn. They have put in thousands of miles, witnessed the magic of mountains and deserts, and still they’re ready for more of life’s highway.

“We’re taking something that is unique in this RV world and bringing it back to life,”  said Uwe Salwender of Area 63 Productions. He restores Airstream trailers. “There’s a lot of aluminum on these and they last a very long time. I’ve seen trailers that are 50 years old and they’re still fully functional. You could move into one of those and live full time.“ He lives in one full time with his wife.

“I myself feel very, very comfortable having a sizable airstream in my possession. I know that no matter what happens I always have a home, and a comfortable one and a stylish one. I would not hurt for the beautiful house I left, because my airstream is just as beautiful but in a different way.”

Depending on the intensity of the job, a restoration by Uwe Salwender can take from six weeks to a year and a half. Here’s short video about what he does.

Uwe Salwender entered the Airstream life while on a vacation trip to Mexico, at the Sea of Cortez. “We started wild camping down there out of a van and a jeep,” he said. The camping was wild, but it “became kind of eh, you know, wind and weather and other influences, animals and snakes and things that we’re not that fond of.”

Nevertheless, he was overpowered by the beauty of the place, and drawn into a connection with the land he felt while living in an old Airstream he had bought. It was a time capsule, flimsy, with an ugly interior, but beautiful in its Airstream way. So beautiful, he couldn’t make himself tear it apart to fix it, so he sold it, bought another, fixed that one, and then friends started to learn about what he was doing.

“I wouldn’t do it publicly for a long time. I wanted for it to sort of remain a hobby.” But five years ago, when the economy started to dip, the volume was turned down on his old job which involved making high-end audio prototypes, amplifiers and stage systems for touring rock bands, and the volume was turned way up on his Airstream restoration business. It was an easy transition to switch over to restoration full time, he said, because building audio prototypes made him familiar with aluminum extrusions and working with wood. Working with the idiosyncrasies of rock musicians simply transformed into working with the idiosyncrasies of Airstream design.

“My favorites are from the forties to the mid 1960s. Much newer and they’re not as rewarding I should say.”
-Uwe Salwender

Salwender believes the Airstream offers a more grounded way to travel, helping people connect with themselves, and as proof he offers a few stories. He’s found that clients who may argue a lot with their spouses seem to calm down in their Airstream. People ask for built in big screen TV entertainment centers “because they can’t miss their USC games.” But sometimes he gently suggests they forgo the TV and go for a walk outside or try starting a conversation with other people at the campsite. He’ll put in the flat screen if you really want it, and hook it up to satellite TV. You can also get solar panels so you can stay off the grid, and a high-end kitchen so you can make more than just soup – a soufflé would work fine in an Airstream.

Jennifer Siegal is an architect whose company is called the Office of Mobile Design. She’s in favor of smaller and more portable forms of housing. What if when you moved, you didn’t need to build a new house but instead took the old one with you? In an interview for SHELTER she talked about how smaller living spaces helped clients simplify their lives.

Today’s revolution of “smaller is better” and putting a house on wheels is really more of an evolution unfolding over decades. Architectural history geeks usually acknowledge Jean Prouve as the founding father of the pre-fab metal home, as he used a workshop approach to create designs that could be mass produced. The “home on wheels” was popularized by founder of the Airstream company, Wally Byam. He bought what would become the Airstream design from an engineer and aircraft builder named William Hawley Bowlus. Byam marketed the design so effectively, Airstream owners felt they weren’t just buying a recreational vehicle, they were buying into a movement. They were free to see the country in their silvery orbs, to do some creative drifting, to experience life unfiltered and seek out the community of fellow free spirits. The early Airstream designs had an industrial Bauhaus sleekness, joining the parade of industrial objects that make up the magic American age of pop design. Airstreams live long and go deep.

“It’s an iconic thing like Harley Davidson, and maybe ’57 Chevy, Buick’s Roadmaster, you know, Zippo lighters. There’s a number of American things that just won’t go away no matter what, right? And I think this is one of them,” Salwender said.

Photo Credit: Airstream by the ocean by Prawnpie via Flickr. Creative Commons License. Shop photos and portraits by Lee Schneider. Interior Airstream renovation images by Uwe Salwender. Music courtesy Mark Radcliffe. Road footage courtesy DocuCinema.

Slide Show Media: Mike at River Haven

River Haven is a transitional community for people dealing with the issues of homelessness. Last September, World Shelters and The Turning Point Foundation teamed up with hundreds of volunteers to revitalize River Haven, which was previously functioning as a tent city encampment. The volunteers installed 19 geodesic structures called U-Domes, and later on others came by to improve the landscaping, provide beds, gas grills, a refrigerator, and offer other aspects of shelter many of us might take for granted. This is the first in what we intend to be a series of profile pieces about people who are living at River Haven and in other communities.

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SHELTER Video

When World Shelters and The Turning Point Foundation teamed up last September to revitalize the River Haven community we were there to capture the moment.  Several hundred volunteers came together to build nineteen structures.  Here’s a look at that happened on the build day.  The clip is longer than those we’ve shown elsewhere, and at the end there’s a link to the Vimeo website, where it can be seen in HD.  Let us know what you think!

A Village in One Day

With three HD cameras rolling and a still camera shooting time lapse images we witnessed something remarkable through our viewfinders.

River Haven U-Domes _Panorama _6

photo courtesy Bruce LeBel

At the River Haven homeless encampment in Ventura, California, we saw nineteen new homes constructed in just one day. The homes are called U-Domes, a product of World Shelters. They are weather worthy, rated to withstand 80 mph winds, fire-retardant, and fully recyclable. They have locking doors, windows and vents.

We’re putting all the material filmed on the construction day into our edit system in San Francisco. Our Los Angeles edit system is handling the timelapse sequences. We hope to have some previews of the timelapse materials up on this site soon. It’s all part of our documentary called SHELTER.

There has been a little drama while building this village.  High winds blew some of the structures off their platforms before they could be properly anchored. The platforms had to be rebuilt because of a design problem. But by Thursday a small crew of workers hopes to finish fixing the platforms, with a move in scheduled next week for twenty five River Haven residents.

Mark Michaels, a resident of River Haven who helps oversee the community, told us that the residents were really looking forward to taking occupancy, now that winter weather is on the way. “We can get some heavy rains here,” he said. “The whole area can turn into a lake.” But with the U-Domes sturdily perched on their wooden platforms, River Haven residents can stay warm and dry. There are six of U-Domes with 200 square feet of space for couples and 13 U-Domes with 120 square feet for singles.

Do projects like this represent the future of pre-fab used in emergency relief situations? Bruce LeBel of World Shelters will find out. In the coming weeks, he will be working with county and city governments to get approval for similar U-Dome installations elsewhere in California. There’s a lot of red tape to cut through and a lot of NIMBY – “Not In My Backyard.” But as Steven Elias, a friend of World Shelters, explained, while a 250-person homeless shelter might meet with resistance in some communities, small twenty five-person communities might answer the needs of the homeless without having a large footprint.

According to the Ventura County 2009 Homeless Count, there are 2,193 homeless people in Ventura County, counting 361 children. 161 families are homeless.

Certainly there’s a need to shelter the homeless, and pre-fab structures like U-Domes could help. Yet U-Domes are just one form of pre-fab. Generally speaking, pre-fabricated manufacturing is a method of constructing homes using manufactured sections that are assembled on site. This method can be “greener” than traditional construction methods because fabrication is centralized and homes can go up more quickly. This brings another advantage – pre-fab can cost less than conventional building.

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photo from Florian via Flickr

Companies like LivingHomes offer high-end pre-fab homes. Jennifer Siegal, founder of the Office of Mobile Design, (OMD) has pioneered the construction of prefabricated homes, schools and other buildings. Ms. Siegal is a big fan of portable architecture – like the classic Airstream trailer.

But high-end pre-fab hasn’t always found an audience. One pre-fab pioneer, Michelle Kaufmann, closed her Oakland, California company MK Designs this past May, citing the bad economy and withering housing market. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Blu Homes, of Boston, MA,  purchased the rights to build Kaufmann’s preconfigured designs.

Still, what often comes out of pre-fab projects, even the expensive ones, are “ideas, experimental materials, assembly methods, and good design–which can often translate into lower costs for all housing,” including homes for the homeless, says Richard Neill, director of photography on SHELTER and an executive producer on the project.

Could be that companies like World Shelters, and groups like Architecture for Humanity are looking into the robust future of pre-fab by focusing on disaster relief, temporary housing and housing for the homeless. We’re going to tell their story in SHELTER. Look for production updates here.

Thanks to Panasonic for donating the use of one of the world’s most advanced 1080P HD cameras–Panasonic’s P2 HD Cinema VariCam, and also thanks to Marshall Thompson for additional cinematography.

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This is the ongoing  blog of SHELTER, a movie about innovative solutions to provide housing for everyone.   The film examines everyone’s right to a roof over their head and focuses on inventive methods of building as advanced by such architects as Jennifer Siegal, Whitney Sander, Shigeru Ban and Dean Maltz, design innovators like Buckminster Fuller and activists like Bruce LeBel of World Shelters.  SHELTER is a production of DocuCinema and Adventure Pictures.  Its executive producers are Lee Schneider and Richard Neill.