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Design students get 8 weeks to transform Airstream trailer

(June 21, 2010) -- Six graduate students from the Interdisciplinary Design Institute at WSU Spokane have eight weeks to delve into the world of travel trailers. They will transform the interior of a 1958 Airstream Overlander trailer into livable space all while exploring the sustainability issues of today’s society and challenging the current image of the travel trailer industry.

SPOKANE, Wash. — WSU Spokane writer Becki Meehan reports six graduate students from the Interdisciplinary Design Institute at WSU 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.

The 26-foot trailer is the focus of a summer design studio — WSU Airstream Studio 2010. Led by clinical assistant professor, Todd Beyreuther — Master of Architecture students Shona Bose, Aaron Pasquale, Jeff Smith, and Brandon Patterson, and Master of Interior Design students Ashlee Holtman and Kait Tripp-Addison 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 WSU 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 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. Does it make sense? Be sure to follow along and find out how this group of students address these issues and incorporates them into the new interior design.

When all is done, this newly polished and 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, and you could be the one to add more traveling adventures and stories to its collection. If you are interested, be sure to follow along on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and the WSU Airstream Blog to find out how you can have a chance to be the next owner.

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.

The Interdisciplinary Design Institute at WSU Spokane advances knowledge to enhance the quality of people’s lives in the built and natural environment through interdisciplinary instruction, research and community service. Research and design at the institute focus in particular on people and place, design history and community service learning, with sustainable design being the theme throughout the curriculum. Faculty and students from all design disciplines are brought together for a one-of-a-kind opportunity in higher learning and discovery. Internationally renowned faculty and students from architecture, interior design and landscape architecture work collaboratively to improve people’s lives through the advancement of design. This distinctive interdisciplinary experience, combined with state-of-the-art facilities located near downtown Spokane, creates an outstanding professional academic and research environment.

WSU Spokane is the urban campus of Washington State University, a land-grant research university founded in 1890. The campus features advanced studies and research in health sciences and health professions, the design disciplines, education, social and policy sciences and science and technology. WSU is one of just 95 public and private research universities with very high research activity, according to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching classifications. In addition, U.S. News & World Report ranks WSU as one of the top public research universities in the nation.

Web sites:
— Interdisciplinary Design Institute:
— WSU Airstream Studio 2010:
— WSU Airstream on Facebook:
– WSU Airstream on Flickr:

SOURCE: WSU press release

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