Hank Bought a Bus

As an architecture student that was tired of projects that would never be created, Hank Butitta decided to take his thesis in a different direction. Always dreaming of having a cabin in the woods, but unable to materialize it, Butitta decided to renovate a school bus into a 225sqft living space. What resulted was a consistent, continuous, and completely interchangeable space.


Materials were kept very simple to not only keep costs low, but to add to the simplicity and elegance of the space. At the end of this project, Butitta and up to a dozen of his friends took a month long journey to test its function.

This is a great example for us to learn from because of its versatility and functionality. This bus can be used for many different reasons, by a varied group and number of people. If you want to learn more about this project, Butitta’s website has a wealth of information and pictures, as well as a travel blog.

Take a look here:

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Design Scheme

In the beginning of the design process, we analyzed the existing conditions of the Airstream. We agreed that we wanted a timeless design that would still respect the integrity of the Airstream, but be enhanced with modern features.

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After several weeks of developing our design scheme, we have finally captured several design ideas for the interior of the Airstream that will live up to the expectations of the iconic exterior. These are some of our initial design ideas that will be seen in the in the MoCoLab:

Gap Wood Construction

The interior skin of the Airstream will be constructed of curved, warm, light-colored wood. The wood panels will be similar to the interior of our precedent: the Poetry Foundation in Chicago, that has reveal detailing. This will make the interior look cohesive.



We are planning on creating a rear hatchback door with a sliding ramp for easier accessibility and circulation through the MoCoLab. This will be the most challenging design move and require the most precise development.


Front Window Seating

Inspired by what existed in the Airstream, we all agreed that there should be a front seating area under the front windows where people could gather immediately after entering. Currently, the design is a U-Shaped bench with an ergonomic shape for added comfort.


Stackable Seating/Storage

The studio came to an agreement that there is a need for stackable or foldable seating that could be used inside or outside the Airstream. There will be a system of stackable shapes that will be hidden underneath permanent seating  and vertical folding chairs will be able to be stored in the movable carts.

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Movable Carts

There will be at least 4 interchangeable carts that can be customized by the user to fit their needs. A group is currently working on prototypes of these different versions that will store things such as folding chairs and food preparation materials. If unfolded the carts will be able to create a dining table that will span the length of the Airstream.



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A New Look for Airstream

Christopher Deam has been given an exciting and much-needed job: revitalizing the mainstream Airstream. He discovered that there was a disconnect between the exterior shell and the interior architecture, and decided that for an American icon, it would no longer be sufficient. Through his work with Airstream, he has been able to take trailer interiors from ‘mountain cabin’ and turn the focus to escape, travel, and modernity.

In the beginning of his process, he found himself asking:

What is authentic?
What has purpose and utility?

These questions are the same that we asked ourselves as a class at the beginning of this project. His technique of fooling the eye by strategically placing seams of materials is something that we will definitely need to utilize. His main challenge was the curve of the interior, and it is an obstacle that we too will need to overcome.

Check out Christopher’s TED Talks here:

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AIA Vermont Airstream

According to the AIA website, A group of Norwich University undergraduate architecture students are transforming a 21-foot 1969 Airstream Globetrotter into a mobile outreach, education, and design center over the course of the next six months. This project was made possible by AIA Vermont when the acquired a grant from AIA National Innovation Fund. After the trailer is transformed, AIA volunteers will take the vehicle on the road to various communities around the state and be used in a multitude of ways. Their goal is to engage the general public and shed light on the positive contributions architects can make.

This project has many similarities to ours and we will definitely be paying close attention to their progress. The fact that both projects have a strong aim to engage the community and serve as an aid to those who need it is encouraging, and hopefully will spark the interest of others to both utilize our contributions and to create projects of their own.

VT airstream

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C S Humphrey Visit

The studio visited C S Humphrey, an architectural millwork, woodwork, and cabinetry company based in Kansas City. We learned about the efficiency and skill involved in crafting woodwork on a much larger scale. Their warehouse had high technology, regulated machines that made the craft of their pieces near perfect. Most of the high-end pieces we saw were made of plywood and finished with a veneer, which we learned is the most durable type of millwork. We can apply some of these lessons by using technology to our advantage to achieve a higher degree of accuracy in the MoCoLab.

Check out: http://www.cshumphrey.com/

Some video and photos from the visit are below:






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Design Proposals

We’ve begun initial design proposals for the MoCoLab. Some of the discussions that have been brought up are the needs for flexibility, convertibility, mobility, privacy, seating, lighting and sound. As we found similarities in many of our proposals, we paired up to focus on designs that could be used for specific purposes, such as: a commercial space, a counseling space, a “hands-on” classroom, a lecture, a healthcare facility, a research laboratory, a community space, an art gallery and a food demonstration space.


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Wood Joinery

The studio practiced our skills in wood craftsmanship by creating a series of wood joints. We learned about the risks involved of using power tools to create detailed cuts. After three iterations, there was much improvement and more knowledge about how difficult it can be to create an effective and attractive joinery.

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Interior Demolition

One of the first steps to fitting out the new interior is to strip it down to its skin and see what we have to work with. Over the week of 2.17 through 2.21 we systematically removed the contents and the interior skin. Next we’ll put it up on supports and strip the underneath. Then we can insulate, run hidden wiring and start the new interior.


The stickers in the photo above are part of a photogrammetric measuring system to capture point cloud data for 3D digital modeling. (To be discussed in a future post.)

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140221_InteriorDemoDay3-027Interior skin.

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Demo: Day 1

The first day of demolition went a lot faster than expected. The studio cleared out all of the major furniture, cabinetry and appliances and then did a deep cleaning of the airstream. After the cleaning, rough measurements of the interior shell were taken to be used for early design models.

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Setting Up Shop

To begin the semester, studio 409 got to work setting up shop and getting familiar with the tools. Demonstrations for the power tools were done by Nils, and then work began. The class built several work benches, saw tables, pin-up boards, and various other work spaces to prepare for the construction to come.

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