The Madeleine Brand Show

The Madeleine Brand Show is a daily, two-hour program that looks at news and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by Madeleine Brand

Malibu's 'Wing House' takes flight

by Andrea Domanick | The Madeleine Brand Show

The wings are connected to the walls at only four points. Andrea Domanick

If you drive up the winding roads of the Santa Monica mountains, you just might see the wings of a 747 cascading down a ridge. But don't worry, it's not a low-flying plane – it's a house.

Rehwald's "Wing House" is made almost entirely out of the recycled parts of a 747 Boeing plane. Aluminum airplane wings make up the roof and ceiling, and while they might be most striking, more than 4.7 million other parts were repurposed for the house.

Inspiration to use old plane parts came from the house's original design. Rehwald wanted to avoid the masculine angularity of common rooftops, so she asked her architect, David Hertz, to construct something lighter and more slender.

"I drew a curved ceiling and then I drew a curved roof," Hertz of the Studio of Environmental Architecture said. "That reminded me of the airfoil of a wing, but then it occurred to me – 'Why not just use a wing?'"

Rehwald and Hertz trekked out to a plane graveyard in the desert near Palmdale, scouring the grounds for something usable. In one day, they had their 747 sawed into pieces, and transported on a military helicopter that costs $8,000 per hour. That was the easy part.

The duo needed approval from 17 different governmental agencies to get approval. They even registered with the Federal Aviation Administration so that pilots wouldn't mistake the wings for a downed aircraft. Construction also proved tricky, because the wings could expand and contract 1.5 inches throughout the day. "Some glass fell out because it was unexpected – understandably so, because it had never been done," Rehwald said.

The "Wing House" also integrates solar heating and uses recycled waste water. Neither Rehwald nor Hertz would reveal an exact price for the property, but they gave an estimate of $2 million.

According to Hertz, a 747 purchased new is $250 million, and they bought the used parts for $25,000. He said the cost is comparable to a conventionally built house. To Rehwald, the house is invaluable.

"Now that I've lived under these wings for four months, I've come to realize that very few people [...] have a relationship with their ceiling," she said. "And I really have developed one, and it's a daily process of being amused and pleased at the way everything reflects throughout the day and into the evening on these aluminum surfaces, magnificent in that way."

With contributions by Andrea Wang

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