Airstream: Vintage Aircraft Shells as Luxury Homes on Wheels

Airstream: Vintage Aircraft Shells as Luxury Homes on Wheels

When a 26-year-old Matthew Hofman launched his own architecture firm, he bought a 1978 Airstream trailer and redesigned it to live in. He received so much attention for his own tiny home on wheels (160 square feet) that he began renovating Airstreams for clients.

Less than 5 years later he’s recrafted more than 60 Airstreams, but he finds each one a design challenge given their aircraft-style shell.
“Airstreams are like an egg. They’re what’s called semi-monocoque construction which is like, it’s an airplane so that creates the integrity as a whole so everything moves together. So there are no walls, there are no roofs, there are no diaphragms that create load, but it’s all one unit. It needs to be whole. And then once you start to do things like cutting out panels, then it really starts to become a design challenge.”

The first riveted aluminum trailer, the “Road Chief”, was designed in 1934 by aircraft designer Hawley Bowlus who had worked on the Spirit of St. Louis. Two years later, Wally Byam, who had helped sell the “Road Chief”, launched his own company called Airstream. The original “Clippers” cost 00, expensive for the time, but Byam couldn’t fill orders fast enough.

Like the “Road Chief”, Airstreams were designed more like aircraft than traditional travel trailers. It’s a style which has earned them a loyal following.

When we visited HofArc’s 20,000-square-foot yard in Santa Barbara, CA, the team were working on “Wanda” for an Australian family of 5 to tour the Outback and a Spartan (Airstream competitor) mobile home for clients to use as a vacation pod in Hawaii. Hofman sees the tiny homes that pass through as providing his clients with freedom.
“We’re all after a sense of freedom, it’s really the driver on the great American road trip.”

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Energy Efficient Homes: Scott Bergford

Energy Efficient Homes: Scott Bergford

Scott Bergford has spent his entire home building career searching for the balance between energy efficiency and affordability. For nearly 30 years, Scott has worked to build homes that exceed building codes and use little energy to run. He also now retrofits existing homes for greater energy efficiency. Scott feels there is inestimable value in collaboration between new discoveries and proven “traditional” building technologies. Today Scott’s homes are certified to the highest ranking of Built Green ® and Energy Star. Scott Homes is one of the few builders in the nation to achieve “Emerald” certification from NAHB Green program.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

Can Tiny Homes Solve Homelessness in the U.S.?

Can Tiny Homes Solve Homelessness in the U.S.?

Watch the next video to learn more about homelessness in the U.S.:

Sawhorse Revolution is a youth-oriented construction program currently focusing on building an eco-village at Nickelsville, a homeless encampment in Seattle, Washington. Sarah Smith and a team of high schoolers approach the residents of Nickelsville as their clients to deliver customized, hand-built homes to help ease the transition from homelessness to the next stage of the resident’s life.

Special thanks to Sawhorse Revolution and Jessica Sherry of Alita Films.
Thumb photo by Barron Peper.

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Executive Producer: Laura Ling
Producer: Paige Hansen
Editor: Lee Mould
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