Imagine you're on a plane.
Except you're not really going to fly anywhere. And while you're sitting inside the fuselage, you're actually ... at a bus stop.
Ball State University architecture students are dreaming up second lives to recycle old airplanes. What if, they asked themselves, instead of sending retired aircrafts to graveyards to rust, they could be used to build bus stops and apartment complexes and emergency relief huts?
"What really interested me is reusing something that's literally going to sit in a waste yard," second-year architecture master's student Daniel Potash, 23, who designed the bus stop, told The Indianapolis Star (http://indy.st/JmGqdv ). "Why not reuse it?"
Think of the strength and the size of an airplane - the enormous amounts of pressure and extreme temperatures it must withstand, and the hefty amounts of weight it must carry.
The potential of its parts is a playground for an architect's imagination. It's an intriguing concept, even if the experimental sketches may never be realized.
Like many brilliant ideas, this one originated at a bar.
About four years ago, Professor Harry Eggink had been toying with the concept of reusing airplanes and explored it a little with one of his advanced architecture classes. He brought some designs with him when he went to a bar with his youngest son and friends - a bunch of aeronautical engineers.
"Let me show you a couple of things," he said.
The feedback: "Why aren't we doing this already?"
And the idea took off.
Aero-architecture, a studio class for master's students, spends its first weeks researching planes.
"We've ridden in planes. We've seen planes. We kind of know how flight works," Potash said. "But we don't really know what really goes into the plane."
Some information isn't available because of security reasons. Still, the class discovered that some commercial airliners can have about 6 million parts.
"To me, that's almost 6 million opportunities to reuse something," Potash said.
Recycling planes is not unprecedented. In California, an architect built a "wing house" from a plane, with wings styled into roofs. People have also lived in old airplanes, like mobile homes.
Architects have also for years been converting old industrial shipping containers into homes.
But the Ball State class plays with the theoretical, piecing apart planes in digital diagrams without a worry to cost, transportation, marketing or even, to a large extent, whether something could actually be built how they imagine it.
Eggink, his students say, doesn't let reality get in the way. He lets them tackle real-world issues without the pressures of a real-world market.
The students could conceptualize whatever they wanted in the first half of the semester. They sketched futuristic libraries, grocery stores, apartments, bike ramps and hospitals from deconstructed planes.
In the name of urban planning, they sliced fuselages, repurposed seats and overhead compartments, upended wings and pulled apart bits of metal.
They added wind turbines and solar panels and geothermal wells.
"This is who we are," said student Julie Musial, 26. "We're idea people.
"Just because it's never been done before," she added, "doesn't mean it can't be fun. You don't have to be limiting."
In the fall, the class took a trip to Boeing in Seattle to show students' designs and take a tour for an up-close look at planes. Eggink says the projects were received by Boeing officials and employees with interest - tempered by some skepticism over the feasibility of the ideas - and appreciation for giving their airplanes a second life.
The field trip was meant to inspire a new set of ideas for the next project: designing for disasters.
Could a derelict plane make a better house? Could it withstand hurricanes, tornadoes and floods?
Could it be recycled into mobile aid stations to bring in help after disaster strikes?
"Everything," Eggink said, "starts with an idea."
Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com
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