Hank Butitta ditched traditional life, converted a school bus to a live-in space, and hit the road. Unlike most people who go nomadic, though, he got school credit.
Better than school credit, actually – Butitta just got his master’s in architecture from the University of Minnesota and converting the bus, which he bought on Craigslist for $3,000, was his master’s final project.
“This was only possible because I was fortunate enough to have an instructor, Adam Marcus, who encourages working at full scale, and allowed me take on such an ambitious and unorthodox project,” wrote Butitta.
The whole project took 15 weeks, and cost $6,000 on top of the initial purchase of the bus. About seven weeks were spent on planning and design, and then the bulk of construction took six weeks compressed at the end of the semester. On July 31, Butitta, his brother Vince, and photographer Justin Vidon hit the road for points west, including Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and canyonlands.
“I thought it was important to demonstrate the value of full scale iteration in architectural education. There are too many architecture students who don’t understand basic physical limitations of materials or how they can be joined. This project was a way to show how building a small structure with simple detailing can be more valuable than drawing a complex project that is theoretical and poorly understood. I think we need more making in architecture!”
“One of the primary goals during the design phase was to develop a living space in 225sqft that is as open and un-restricting as possible. In order to accomplish this, I set self-imposed guidelines that eliminated any furniture or structure above the bottom edge of the window. This allows the space to remain continuous, and maintains clear sight-lines from one end of the space to the other, even while seated. In order to accomplish this I developed a thin wall system integrating structure, insulation, electrical, lighting, and facing, leaving the interior open for occupation. The ceiling is covered in plywood flexed by compression, and the floor is reclaimed gym flooring, complete with 3-point line.”
“The windows also contribute greatly to the open feeling in such a small space. Many bus conversions cover a majority of the windows to aid in privacy and insulation. This results in a dramatic reduction in natural lighting and obscures the fantastic panoramic views, not to mention compromising the embedded energy of the windows already in place. In order to mitigate issues of privacy and insulation, drop-down translucent insulation panels were built into the lower walls, and can be raised into place with the aid of magnets. Additionally, two skylights are placed where emergency hatches once sat, bringing a fantastic amount of light into the space.”
To follow Butitta on the road, learn more about the project, and see more pictures and videos, visit hankboughtabus.com.
Overlandia is the art, science, and romance of driving in the dirt.