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Wooden school bus

Materia is the link between manufacturers and architects. The materials we publish are innovative: they add something new to the existing collection. We get especially excited by projects in which manufacturers develop designs, or in which architects do the production.

Enter Hank Butitta, who “bought a bus”. For his graduation project, he took an iconic American school bus and converted it into a travelling living space. Preferring a hands-on approach and the idea that architecture is a profession of doing and making, his dream turned into a road-worthy reality within 15 weeks.

First, the basics. A bus like this is around 12 m long, and this one was bought online for $3,000 (~ €2,200). It’s had another $6,000 invested in it by the designer. The idea was to create a small structure with simple detailing for maximum effect.

The design keeps the feel of the school bus intact. An aisle straight down its length serves as circulation. Entry is through the back door, which leads to a bathroom space, the first of four zones. Beyond that are the kitchen, seating area and bedroom. At the very front is the driver’s compartment.

Each zone is subdivided according to the modular unit of the window, which is about 71 cm across. Because the prototypical bus is based on that module, the width of the space divides evenly into two bays and the central aisle, each also 71 cm. The entire space, of about 21 m2, is organised for a comfy, functional and flexible environment.

There’s a lot of wood inside, mostly plywood that has been flexed by compression (imagine what could be done using BendyWood. The floor is made from reclaimed gym flooring, which explains the occasional thick painted line swooping across it. An important design decision was to keep all furniture under the windows. This opens up the space and leaves the interior clean and, with all the windows bright.

The windows are covered when necessary with translucent insulation panels held in place by magnets. Two skylights stream light in from above, and at night the bus is lit with dimmable LED strip lighting, hidden in the gap between the ceiling and the walls.

The designer is currently touring the USA with the vehicle. The idea is to learn more about being in small spaces and extend the discussion on compact living. Residents of Western Europe and the Far East take note!

More images and information are here.

Images by Justin Evidon.