Airstreams: Icons Worthy of Preservation
Last week, I wrote about weighing the merits and value of conserving and restoring iconic structures such as the city core of Dresden or the Bauhaus in Dessau. This week in Germany, I learned that classic Airstream trailers are being restored and rented to hip European "holiday makers." Hence, Airstreams are also iconic structures (albeit mobile ones) being restored and, in some cases, retrofitted.
Featured in GT, a trendy Dutch magazine, the enticing ad copy reads, “With their sleek silver retro curves and owned by American Hollywood stars, the vintage Airstream caravan is a design icon. ARC (American Retro Caravans) is a company dedicated to restoring these vintage caravans to their former glory. We have combined retro style with beautifully comfortable interiors and new technology to provide the ultimate camping experience. These caravans will out shine anything else on the campsite.”
The Airstream has an interesting history. Popular since the 1930’s, the Airstream was the brainchild of Wally Byam.He originally started his company in the late 1920’s after short careers in law, advertising and publishing, first dabbling in trailer design, then devoting himself full time to their production. His first trailers were built out of plywood and masonite before he settled upon lightweight aluminum for his first Airstream in 1936.
Byam successfully weathered the Depression, but closed his factory during WWII because of the scarcity of materials. He took his skills to the aerospace company Lockheed, where his work with aluminum had application to aircrafts. At the end of the war, with consumer demand for trailers for leisure time activity high and his skill with aluminum ever finely honed, he returned to full production. The Airstream continues to be manufactured and remains highly sought out today.
I concluded from my week studying abroad that this truism applies: Good preservation incorporates the grand and the modest along with ample room for innovation.