H Y B R I D   A I R S T R E A M   P R O J E C T S

ORIGIN: I've had a 25-year dream of owning an Airstream, and I made that dream come true last year. Owning and traveling in my new trailer further inspired me to try living in her full time. I consolidated my possessions into a storage unit, rented a space in an RV park, and moved in. The experience has been thoroughly enjoyable. It has also inspired me to consider using my Airstream as an integral component for a new living experience. I want to create a hybrid structure that uses my Airstream as a core element, providing kitchen and bath, while the new space around her provides me with a protected environment for my office, studio, guest and storage space. I want my Airstream to be a focal element while remaining mobile, so I can continue to use her as my favorite travel companion.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING: is a critical issue that will be an increasing challenge to developed and developing nations in the next several decades. Factory-made designs are appearing and offer real potential. The criticism of most modular designs is the repetitive nature of their appearance. Core-unit-construction allows us to create the most expensive core components (plumbing, electrical, and heating) of a home in a controlled and affordable factory setting, while creating a wide variety of exterior “shells” using panelized or other building methods. Cores designed specifically for this use are just being proposed, but I feel that we already have a multitude of potential housing cores in the market place. They are being built and sold in the recreational vehicle industry.

HYBRID PROJECTS: Cost, storage, maintenance and frequency of use are the primary issues facing the RV industry and potential owners. If we can find a way to create hybrid structures that will enclose, protect and expand the potential use of Airstreams (RV's), we will open up a new market that has great potential. Hybrid structures need to provide: enclosed space for the Airstream, access doors (large and small), a floor that aligns, windows that align, and a safe and effective way to vent propane and plumbing systems to the exterior. The shell and RV are currently built under different codes and guidelines will need to be developed and approved to allow for their concurrent use. These rules can be developed in a local, state or national forum.

AIRSTREAM SOPHISTICATION: White box RV's do not offer the designer much potential for using the RV as a focal or featured element in the design of a residential interior. I suggest that they have as much potential for hybrid design, but would be enclosed at their interior sides, and have interior window or door openings aligned in that enclosure so that the RV will feel connected to the remaining interior spaces. The design quality and materials of the Airstream will allow it to remain open to the interior where it can hold a commanding focus for the interior design.

ALTERNATE USES FOR HYBRID STRUCTURES: Aside from meeting a basic need for low-income housing, hybrid structures can provide a solution to many other cultural needs. They can provide enclosed and attractive storage for the many Airstreams (RV's) already owned and currently stored separately on neighborhood lots, or collectively at RV storage facilities. They can provide flexible short-term living space for residential needs such as guest quarters for inlaws, au pairs, teenagers, and other family members. They can provide for second-home needs and other special uses such as art studio space,

TAX ALTERNATIVES: The hybrid nature of the proposal brings up an interesting tax idea. The Airstream is taxed as a vehicle and pays for the sticker on the plate. The shell structure can be designed so that it does not have it's own kitchen and bath, and therefore cannot be classified as a dwelling for tax purposes. It can be designed as a storage building so it will be taxed as a storage building. In many rural jurisdictions, construction of a residence changes the tax base quite dramatically. A properly designed Airstream “shell” could be seen as a barn and as such, retains in the rural context in its visual form as well as tax status.

MULTIPLE SHELLS: A single owner may choose to have more than one shell enclosure in one location to meet different needs, and shuttle his Airstream from place to place. He may have a parking place integrated into the design of his suburban home, and a barn in the country. He may choose to move seasonally between costal and mountain settings. Two or more friends and/or families may purchase similar Airstream's and exchange locations, trading the shell enclosures while easily moving the contents.

REDEFINING THE GYPSY LIFE: We all have a version of the wanderer in us. We dream of having the freedom to move about easily, and we want to do it with style and sophistication. Airstream ownership draws us toward that dream. Having a hybrid space to expand and secure that dream is a next step. The dream calls us to purchase an Airstream, but parking it out back behind the garage or down by the highway separates us once again from the intimacy of contact. Walking into our Airstream studio, or inviting guests to join us for a weekend in our Airstream guest room, is a way to keep our dream present in our lives. Hybrid spaces will increase our use and enjoyment of this dream. Our Airstream will call us to create, spend the night and travel on a much more immediate basis. It my eventually call us to move in, and expand our dream while shrinking our footprint on the earth.

David Ludwig


Phone: 415-722-8488     480 Gate 5 Road, Studio 122, Sausalito, CA 94965-1412

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