Old airplane seats and fuselage pieces create a public transit shelter. Photo: Designed by Daniel Potash
Old airplane seats and fuselage pieces create a public transit shelter. Photo: Designed by Daniel Potash

Finding Design Opportunities

In 2012, Eggink introduced aero-architecture as a three-week assignment for a graduate class. His students turned baggage compartments into kitchen cabinets and made furniture from other plane parts. Then in 2013, the project grew to a 15-week graduate studio devoted to finding new uses for what would otherwise be wasted aircraft materials.

“The whole idea of the studio is to look at planes that have gone to the plane graveyard,” explains Daniel Potash, a second-year architecture graduate student who took the 2013 course. “Most of the time, the engines are removed because they can be refurbished and resold. The rest of the plane will sit there and serve no purpose at all. For a designer or an architect, it’s a playground out there. There are all these different design opportunities that aren’t being utilized.”

During Potash’s class, the students started by researching airplanes and the various parts before diving into designing commercial and residential applications. Potash dreamed up a bus stop and infill-housing unit from spliced-up pieces of fuselage, while other students drew plans for libraries, grocery stores and hospitals.

Then the entire class took a field trip to visit Boeing’s factory in Everett, Wash., to present their concepts to a group of Boeing engineers, including Eggink’s brother Roy, a chief engineer for the 747.

“My brother gave us an unbelievable tour,” Eggink says. “My students saw how the airplanes were being made and talked to the aeronautical engineers. They were able to get a lot of information so when they got back, they could do so much more.”

During the second half of the course, the students honed in on a specific problem: natural disasters.

Airplanes, it turns out, are already designed to withstand a variety of natural disaster conditions, such as high winds and extreme temperatures. For instance, the cruising speed of a 747 is around 550 to 650 miles per hour, which is well above the 100- to 300-mile-per-hour wind speeds of a tornado. And an engine casing’s inner wall, which withstands excessive heat during flight, can last through a wildfire.

Next page: The Students’ Creative Solutions