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College Design Students Redo ’58 Airstream

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June 21, 2010 by   Leave a Comment

Design students will tackle redesigning interior of this 1958 Airstream travel trailer.

Design students will tackle redesigning interior of this 1958 Airstream travel trailer.

Six graduate students from the Interdisciplinary Design Institute at Washington State University, Spokane, were just introduced to an American icon in the travel industry — a 1958 Airstream Overlander trailer. They have eight weeks to delve into the world of travel trailers and transform the interior into livable space all while exploring the sustainability issues of today’s society and challenging the current image of the travel trailer industry, according to WSU Today.

The 26-foot trailer is the focus of a summer design studio — WSU Airstream Studio 2010. Led by clinical assistant professor Todd Beyreuther, students will not only redesign the trailer, but they will think about how its design can solve very global and economic issues related to mobility and living in small spaces.

“The design will likely be a fluid, digital form within an American icon of manufacturing and mobility with its aluminum skin, rivets and curves,” said Beyreuther. “We don’t want to touch the iconicity, but we do want to address some of today’s larger scale issues with the new design.”

The team of students has taken on the management roles of construction, marketing, social media, financing, digital modeling and manufacturing to simulate what they would normally experience on a construction project in their practicing professions. The course will concentrate on the design transformation of interior components of this Airstream chassis while preserving its historic exterior character.

When designing a new interior for an older object, there are many challenges. Fortunately, this group started with a blank slate — this trailer was gutted prior to arriving at  Spokane. With the latest technology in their hands, they have the means to digitally map the surfaces to 1/100 of an inch and later create a 3D digital design to give exact specifications directly to manufacturing for a perfect fit of the new materials.

“It’s a great opportunity for the students to explore global scale issues of sustainability and mobile lifestyles through a design | build project that that focuses on product design, materials and manufacturing at a scale much smaller than typically addressed in architecture and interior design,” said Beyreuther.

Marketed as one of the lightest travel trailers out there, the trailer’s original logo even depicts a person on a bicycle pulling the Airstream. This group takes that logo one step further and tackles the issues of sustainability and explores the possibility of taking this trailer off the grid.

Win the Airstream

When all is done, this newly designed trailer will hit the road for various events throughout the fall semester. At the end of its journey with the design students, it will be sold. Readers can follow the project on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and the WSU Airstream Blog to find out how they can have a chance to be the next owner. Tour dates will be announced at a later date.

Current partners of the WSU Airstream Studio are Composite Materials and Engineering Center and the Institute for Sustainable Design at the WSU Pullman campus. As the project progresses, future partners will be sought. Stay in touch and let us know if you want to help support the WSU Airstream project. Contact Todd Beyreuther beyreuther@wsu.edu or Brady Crook at crook@wsu.edu for more information.

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