Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Living the Airstream Life!

What came first, the chicken or the egg?  Well, for Andreas Stavropoulos, first came the idea! Andreas began the late nights of Craigslist searching... and then it happened! A trip to a derelict horse ranch in the Salinas Valley, an exchange of cash in an old barn and a harrowing towing adventure up Highway 101, which netted his current abode... a 1959 Airstream travel trailer.
The metamorphosis, which occurred in a generously allocated space at a friend's Stanford sculpture studio, was an archeological study in all things Americana. Tucked under couch cushions and linoleum panels, he found artifacts; mix tapes, scrawled recipes and wrinkled photographs, that chronicled the lives of those who had dwelt within the Airstream since some stranger first purchased it in 1959 from Pacific Railroad Sales in Salinas, California. Andreas felt that he was participating in American history by unearthing and updating one of its most iconic symbols in order to make it relevant to his age and time.

The renovation was necessarily an exercise in restraint and creativity. With just 150 square feet to work with, he jettisoned the 1950s colors of flesh tone paint and wall-to-wall linoleum and moved in with cork flooring, track lighting, fresh colorful paint. He also added custom designed cabinets and furniture, to fit the sinuous interior topography.

He then revealed the beautiful workmanship of the riveted aluminum end caps and removed the sewage facilities completely. Andreas performed the work by himself, trying to keep the design in his head... one step ahead of the building process of his hands. The materials palette that he chose is light in color with a few splashes of color. This lightness holds the space open and gives it a contemporary feel.
The Airstream now resides in the garden of a co-op in North Berkeley, a few steps from the Cheeseboard and Chez Panisse.  His obsession with mobility, modularity and affordability began long before the Airstream and has since extended beyond.  As a recently self employed (read as LAID OFF) landscape architect, Andreas has been able to address several of the problems that he sees in the field. Most importantly, the lack of connection between the LAND and the ARCHITECT. He states, "Where landscape architects once spent significant time on the site, the profession now finds some of the most creative minds shoehorned into cubicles". This result seems like a huge loss to him and he wondered how it might be possible to create a space for real understanding within the profession;the kind of understanding that occurs from seeing a day of shadows move across a place, or listening to and observing people in a space.

The interior is lit by several medium sized windows and an off-the-shelf track lighting system. With the door open, diffuse light makes the space glow. Andreas was intent on keeping the original stove and incorporating it into the cabinetry. He created a backsplash using inexpensive aluminum flashing that he texturized with a ball-peen hammer. With this in mind and the knowledge that he gained by designing and building the interior of the Airstream, Andreas set about creating a mobile studio that could travel to the site and "where I could work during the early and critical stages of concept design". The studios requirements were that they had to "allow" him to be productive, but also put him squarely in the surrounding environment. It also had to be a showcase of his design sensibilities.  Some potential clients might raise an eyebrow at the studio and walk away. Most, however, most would delighted. Andreas adds, "those are the people I want to work for: they see the value of process, understand the subtleties that result from deep understanding and want to engage with a designer as we surround ourselves in the medium".  

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