on tour: MotoArt


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A visit to the amazing production facility and office for MotoArt to talk with founders Dave and Donovan.

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on tour: MotoArt

  1. 1. motoart 1 on tour: MotoArt When I was a kid my father occasionally took my brothers and me to watch military aircraft take off and land. He knew of a road that cut through what was an FAA tech center near Atlantic City NJ known as NAFEC - the National Aviation Facilities Experimental Center. At the time, it had the largest hanger space in the world, was the third alternate landing site for the space shuttle, and was the location of the first airshow in 1910. We would pull the family station-wagon to the shoulder of the road right at the end of the main runway and watch the planes for hours. The jets seemed so close we could touch them. My fifth year architectural thesis project was a flight school at the community college directly adjacent to that former FAA tech center - it had been converted to the Atlantic City International Airport by then. Part of my design strategy included using salvaged aircraft parts as raw building material. The reviewers who attended my final presentation thought the notion was preposterous. The Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson AZ is the world’s largest military aircraft graveyard. It’s often referred to as The Boneyard, however, boneyard is a generic term used to describe facilities that store aircraft retired from service. In nearby Pima AZ is the Pinal Airpark, home of the Evergreen Aircraft Maintenance Facility, one of the largest storage locations for decommissioned commercial aircraft. Although these two are among the largest of their kind, similar facilities exist throughout the world. The dry southwestern United States is ideal for aircraft storage. The arid climate reduces the potential for oxidation. Prior to the attacks on 9/11, anyone looking to salvage parts or components from the aircraft stored at these facilities had reasonable access. Since then, the U.S. government has changed the regulations and old parts are significantly more difficult to source. For visionaries and artists like Dave Hall and Donovan Fell, owners of the Torrance CA- based MotoArt, new restrictions limiting access to what they see as raw material for their business means they’ve had to search for parts farther afield. But it hasn’t stopped their business from growing. Both are what I would consider glass-half-full people. They see opportunity everywhere. For more than a decade Dave and Donovan have been converting salvaged aviation components into amazing furniture that’s functional and beautiful art. Had they been sitting in on my final thesis review, the outcome may have been quite different. The idea of such repurposing has been discussed many times before on this blog, but MotoArt may be one of the most interesting. I’ve known about their work for years, though www.threadcollaborative.com ➜ threadcollaborative 11250 morrison street no. 201, north hollywood ca 91601
  2. 2. motoart 2 I can’t remember how I discovered them. Several weeks ago Aleida and I made arrangements to stop by their office and production facility to get first hand look at what I had only seen in pictures. From the front the building looks like all the other office park structures surrounding the Torrance Municipal Airport - Zamperini Field. And even the first office space you enter hardly hints at the treasure beyond. But once you enter the production facility it’s like a wonderland of very strange proportions. Everything you see was originally made for very large equipment. As parts and pieces removed from their original context they make the average human seem totally out of scale. Everywhere you look, including the ceiling, there are airplane parts waiting to be or in the process of being transformed. Wings, tails, stabilizers, spinners, wheels, wing flaps, engine rotors, rudders, cowlings, radial engines, and so many more I couldn’t easily identify were being disassembled, manipulated, polished, and buffed on their way to becoming office desks, conference chairs, bars, conference tables, light fixtures, and beds. Co-owner Donovan Fell may be the only person who does seem properly proportioned for the size of the parts he’s working on. That’s not to say he’s huge, though he is a big guy, but he has a big personality that seems to fill up the space. He graciously took more time than I expected to show us what’s he’s working on, tell us about recent trips to Asia, talks with us about some interesting recent clients, and gives us background stories about their 2004 Discovery Channel reality TV series Wing Nuts. Co-owner David Hall gave us a tour of the whole facility, including an area out behind the warehouse to show us some of his most recent parts purchases. Between their production space and the airport is what many would see as a big pile of junk, but it’s actually a staging area with more raw material yet to be processed. Dave said it’s a constant battle with the landlord regarding how much they are allowed to store. While wading through, he excitedly points out several big flat components that looked like wings. They weren’t wings but flaps, just one small section of a huge wing (see photo above). They’re a recent rare score that may be the last of their kind. He reiterates what I mentioned above about how difficult it’s become to salvage good vintage aircraft parts. Although I don’t think they necessarily see their work within a sustainability context, it certainly supports efforts toward closed loop systems, waste reduction, and resource conservation. MotoArt is doing full scale and real what I was only imagining with my thesis project, and it’s difficult for me not to admire and respect what they’re doing But I have to admit, it’s not for everyone. Have you ever seen their work? If so, tell us what you think. If not, please check them out. www.threadcollaborative.com ➜ threadcollaborative 11250 morrison street no. 201, north hollywood ca 91601
  3. 3. motoart 3 Thank you Dave and Donovan for your time. Click on the icon below for more tour photos: www.threadcollaborative.com ➜ threadcollaborative 11250 morrison street no. 201, north hollywood ca 91601