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747 Wing House

The 747 Wing House is a unique residential structure designed from the wings of a decommissioned Boeing 747-200 airplane. The project was completed by American architect David Randall Hertz, a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and his firm, the Studio of Environmental Architecture, in 2011. Working with associate Lucas Goettsche, Hertz assembled a team that was able to realize the project after many years of waiting on government approvals. The house has been widely publicized internationally because of its unique design, its sustainable use of recycled materials, the dramatic transportation of the wings to the building site that was completed by a truck and helicopter, and its creative repurposing of abandoned infrastructure to achieve an architectural work of significance.

747-Wing-House-By-David-Hertz-Architects-03-759x345 747 Wing House / David Hertz Architects

© Douglas Hill

Site:

The house was built on a 55-acre property off of Cotharin Road at the western edge of the Santa Monica Mountains, northwest of Malibu, California, and was formerly owned and occupied by famous artist and Hollywood set designer Tony Duquette. Duquette’s property was burned in the Green Meadows fire of 1993, which resulted in the complete destruction of over twenty-one of the structures that he and his wife had created from recycled objects and movie sets.

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© Douglas Hill

Concept:

While standing on the property, Hertz imagined a floating roof that would hang over the site to minimize structural obstructions of the views of a nearby mountain ridge. Hertz’s initial concept sketches showed a site section with a curved ceiling and a roof form that reminded him of the wing section of an airplane. The wing, a self-supporting structure, cantilevers off the fuselage of an airplane like an outstretched arm. This requires little vertical support and only a few walls, which is ideal for a structure to minimize obstructions and maximize views. Creating a wing foil shaped roof would be complex and difficult to build conventionally. Through examining and exploring a variety of actual wing dimensions, Hertz determined that the wings from a 747 would fit on the existing pads and that they were already oriented to keep the views. The low profile of the wings was integrated into the ridge top, and the wing made to appear to cascade down and float above the ground. Utilizing the wings as 100% post-consumer recycled components and appropriating them in creative new ways is consistent with the existing context of Duquette’s structures of found objects and emblematic of Hertz’s thoughts on the “disposable” nature of our society.

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© Douglas Hill

Design:

The main house comprises two separate buildings linked together on three levels and uses two wings and two vertical stabilizers from a Boeing 747-200. The lower house is partially open air and has 18-foot-tall (5.5 m) ceilings topped with the left 747 wing. The upper structure creates the main house and uses the right wing as the main roof and two vertical stabilizers as the roofs of the master bedroom and bathroom.

Hertz convinced the client to purchase the 747 airplane, originally worth $250 million, for US $30,000. Mark Thompson of Thompson Aviation sold the airplane and his team detoxified, cut apart, and transported the plane for airlift. Using a laser and the cut-off saws at the Victorville Airport, home of the second largest airplane graveyard in the nation, the cockpit and tail were removed and the fuselage cut longitudinally. Next, transverse sectioning reduced large segments of fuselage and the wings to a manageable size for transport. A truck carried the parts, measuring 47 ft. by 125 ft., successfully without damage. Seven California Highway Patrol vehicles escorted the truck during the night and closed multiple lanes of three major freeways, State Routes 2 and 15, and US Route 101, to accommodate the vehicle. The wings traveled from the Southern California Logistics Airport aircraft boneyard to Camarillo Airport in Oxnard, California, located 10 miles from the site. At that point, because each wing weighed approximately 20,000 pounds and the only way to transport such heavy, unwieldy sections to a remote destination was from above (navigation by truck was deemed impossible), the wings needed to be cut in two for proper positioning for transport by helicopter, which was completed by a Boeing CH-47 Chinook operated by Columbia Helicopters Inc. of Portland, Oregon and took over two hours to complete. The helicopter positioned the wings on a large pile of tires at the site. The wings were then spliced back together and lifted onto columnar supports, attaching the custom fabricated steel brackets on the columns to the engine mounts on the wings. The wings touched the ground at few points creating minimal foundation requirements.

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© Douglas Hill

Environmental features:

Hundreds of airplanes had been retired to sit in the deserts of California and sold at the price of their principal raw material, aluminum. The idea of utilizing recycled components and appropriating them in creative new ways was certainly consistent with the existing context of the original Tony Duquette structures and envisioned by architect Hertz as a continuum of that concept as appropriated to today’s concerns regarding minimizing primary raw material use in buildings.

The building is extremely light weight and features very few conventional materials. The main roof structure is almost entirely composed of the recycled wings. The use of the wings makes for a structure that uses materials more efficiently to achieve higher strength with less weight. Using the wings to achieve the curvilinear roof structure desired by the client saved a substantial amount of embodied energy, carbon dioxide output, and construction waste, compared to building a similar sized house made from conventional materials that would have to be transported up and down the mountain to the same location. Using the wing was also a substantial cost reduction. Even at $8,000 per hour for the helicopter and $30,000 for the 747, it was still a fraction of the cost of building a similarly shaped roof with conventional materials.

The 747 Wing House was built on the site where existing Duquette structures had burned. The use of the existing pad minimized site grading. The foundation used many of the existing concrete retaining walls but they were rebuilt and reinforced as required to meet new code regulations. This greatly reduced the amount of concrete needed to make the foundation and new walls. Because the wings are only supported in four primary places to the ground, the foundation was further minimized. Both main wings are held up entirely by the four large mounts that the engines originally hung from. By designing the weight distribution on the mounts, it allowed for the outside walls of the building to be made of high efficiency self-supporting glass instead of conventional load-bearing wooden walls. This maximizes solar gain for heating and allows the entire building to be opened to the outside. This also keeps it cool in the summers and minimizes the need for artificial light.

The home features an eight kilowatt solar array and evacuated tube hot water system as well as thermal solar systems for heating water. High performance glass and cellulose insulation is used in the wings to create an energy efficient building envelope.

747-Wing-House-By-David-Hertz-Architects-07-759x504 747 Wing House / David Hertz Architects

© Douglas Hill

Future structures:

The finished main house incorporates only the wings of the 747-200. Hertz also designed many outlying buildings that use the remaining portions of the 747 fuselage. An art studio building will use a 50 ft. long section of the upper fuselage as a roof, while the remaining front portion of the fuselage and upper first class cabin deck will be used as the roof of a guest house. The lower half of the fuselage, which forms the cargo hold, will form the roof of a barn. A meditation pavilion will be made from the entire front of the airplane, measuring 28 ft. in diameter and 45 ft. tall, in which the cockpit windows will form a skylight.

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© Douglas Hill

Plane:

The Boeing 747-200 was a Trans World Airlines (TWA) aircraft (N93106). Its construction number was 19672 and it was the twenty-eighth 747 built. The 747 was delivered to TWA on April 3, 1970. It flew with TWA until 1992, when it was retired to the old El Mirage Air Force Base, before being purchased by Tower Air for its scrap value of $30,000.

747-Wing-House-By-David-Hertz-Architects-12-759x505 747 Wing House / David Hertz Architects

© Douglas Hill

David Hertz Architects:

This project exists on a 55-acre property in the remote hills of Malibu with unique topography and panoramic views looking out to a nearby mountain range, a valley, and the Pacific Ocean with islands in the distance. In searching for inspiration, I imagined a roof structure that would allow for a un-obstructed view of the mountain range and distant views. The client, a woman, requested curvilinear/feminine shapes for the building. The progenitor of the building’s form was envisioned as a floating curved roof. It soon became apparent, that in fact, an airplane wing itself could work. In researching airplane wings and superimposing different airplane wing types on the site to scale, the wing of a 747, at over 2,500 sq. ft., became an ideal configuration to maximize the views and provide a self supporting roof with minimal additional structural support needed.

747-Wing-House-By-David-Hertz-Architects-13-759x505 747 Wing House / David Hertz Architects

© Douglas Hill

By incorporating many of the previous pads and retaining walls we sought to minimize significant grading and subsequent impacts to the existing topography and landscape. The wing structures are positioned to float on top of simple concrete walls that are cut into the hillsides. The floating roofs derive simple support from steel brace frames, which attach to strategic mounting points on the wing where the engines were previously mounted. Frameless, structural self-supporting glass creates the enclosure from the concrete slab on grade into the wing as roof. The scale of a 747 aircraft is enormous – over 230 feet long, 195 feet wide and 63 feet tall with over 17,000 cubic feet of cargo area alone and represents a tremendous amount of material for a very economical price of less than $50,000 dollars. Additionally, incorporating prefabricated lightweight components off site and delivering them to the remote site via helicopter, although at a cost of $8,000/hr. became realistic after considering the cost of getting traditional labor and material to the site.

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© Douglas Hill

After visiting the planes and verifying with the building department that there is nothing specifically prohibiting the use of an airplane wing as a roof, we began to explore the actual structure of the wings in particular and examined if other components might be used for additional accessory structures on the property. Although, we did find out that we have to register the roof of the house with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) so pilots flying overhead do not mistake it as a downed aircraft.

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© Douglas Hill

As we analyzed the cost, it seemed to make more sense to acquire an entire airplane and to use as many of the components as possible, like the Native American Indians used every part of the buffalo. Therefore, the property is to consist of several structures all made with components and pieces of a Boeing 747-200 aircraft.

747-Wing-House-By-David-Hertz-Architects-Project-Process-07 747 Wing House / David Hertz Architects

Project Process – © David Hertz Architects

The Main Residence uses both of the main wings as well as the 2 stabilizers from the tail section as a roof for the Master Bedroom. The Art Studio Building will use a 50-foot long section of the upper fuselage as a roof, while the remaining front portion of the fuselage and upper first class cabin deck will be used as the roof of the Guest House. The lower half of the fuselage, which forms the cargo hold, will form the roof of the Animal Barn. A Meditation Pavilion will be made from the entire front of the airplane at 28 feet in diameter and 45 feet tall; the cockpit windows will form a skylight. Several other components are contemplated for use in a sublime manner, which include a fire pit and water element constructed out of the engine cowling.

747-Wing-House-By-David-Hertz-Architects-Project-Process-11-750x1000 747 Wing House / David Hertz Architects

Project Process – © David Hertz Architects

Environmental Features:

Wing house, implements many environmental features. The sole fact that an entire 747 is used to construct a main residence and 6 ancillary structures, is environmentally sustainable in that the material being used is 100% post-consumer waste, and the plane has already been engineered so that additional material and man power are not necessary as they would be if the structure was to be built from the ground up. Solar power, radiant heating and natural ventilation is incorporated as well as high performance heat mirror glazing.

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© Douglas Hill

Project Data:

Project name: 747 Wing House
Location: Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu, California, United States
Coordinates: 34.092754, -118.966889
Type:

  • Type By Characteristic: Contemporary House, Green & Sustainable House
  • Type By Site: Mountain House
  • Type By Size: Medium House – (201 sqm – 450 sqm)
  • Type By Materials: Steel House

Structural system: Repurposed 747 wings and tail stabilizers, supported by steel columns with poured in place reinforced concrete walls.
Project Area: 2,500 sqf
Site Area: 55-acre
Completion Year: October, 2011

Awards:

  • 2016 – Architizer A+ Awards – Typology Categories: Residential > Private House (L 3000-5000 sq ft) – Finalist
  • 2012 – Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design Awards
  • 2012 – The American Institute of Architect (AIA Awards) –  AIA California Council Awards – Category: Residential – Special commendation

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Francine Rehwald
Architects: David Hertz Architects – 2420 Mckinely Ave, Venice Beach, Ca. 90291, United States
Partner in charge and Design Architect: David Randall Hertz FAIA, LEED AP.
Design Associate and project manager: Lucas Goettsche
Structural Engineers: Cristobal Paniagua, Katie Baad and Carl Howe @ CW. Howe Partners.
Mechanical Engineers: Abe Stallcup and David Knight @ MEG- Monterey Energy Group
Civil Engineer: Thomas Murphy@ M3 CivilAerospace Consultant-Matthew Giles
Deconstruction and Transport: Mark Thompson- Thompson Aviation
Geotechnical: Grover
HollingsworthSeptic systems: Ensitu Engineering
Helicopter Transportation: Columbia helicopters
Landscape: Aaron Landsworth
General contractors: Ron Senso and Rod Spector
Text Description: © Courtesy of David Hertz Architects
Images: © Douglas Hill

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