High in the coastal mountains of southern California, a Boeing 747 has made its final landing. Its wings were cut in two and flown in by helicopter to this remote wilderness site, where they were re-assembled and craned onto a steel frame to serve as roofs for two residential structures. Eventually, the Wing House may be joined by a meditation pavilion in the nose cone, a guest house, art studio and animal barn in sections of the fuselage, and a viewing platform canopied by the tail, scattered around the 22-hectare ranch. It’s the creation of architect David Hertz, who has spent his 30 years of practice recycling industrial materials to conserve energy and natural resources. Giving new life to an airplane was a logical culmination of his earlier efforts. The commission came by chance. Francie Rehwald, a former Mercedes dealer with a taste for risk, acquired the ranch of the late Tony Duquette, an eccentric LA designer who turned junk into jewelry and movie sets. The house he built here was destroyed in a wildfire, leaving only a few isolated follies. Rehwald checked Hertz’s previous buildings, took him on a wild ride around the site, and hired him on the spot. “I love your work but I see it as masculine, angular and blocky,” she cautioned. “I want something that’s more curvilinear and feminine.” Inspiration struck at the conclusion of a long flight to Europe. As Hertz recalls, “I was jet- lagged on arrival, and I began sketching - starting with the roof, as my mentor, John Lautner, would have done. Like him I imagined standing on a ridge beneath a roof that floated over a room enclosed with glass. I drew a curved ceiling, like a boat or a surfboard and it reminded me of the laminar flow of air over an airplane wing. Then it occurred to me: why not use a wing? It cantilevers off its fuselage; it uses materials efficiently to achieve strength and lightness. On the flight home I photographed the wings of airplanes in detail, finding shapes that were undeniably feminine, and Francie gave her approval.” Securing a plane was easy; hundreds of mothballed airliners are parked in the Mohave desert, just beyond the coastal range. A 747 that’s priced at $200 million on delivery costs less than a Mercedes when it’s stripped and sold for scrap. The greater challenge was to secure construction permits from 17 agencies that Duquette had ignored. It took two years of negotiation and another of site preparation to remedy code violations, re-grade the building pads, drill caissons and a well, put in new road, a septic tank and power conduits . The plan checker confirmed there was nothing in the local building code that forbade using a wing as a roof, but asked if it could withstand a high wind load. Luckily, Hertz had brought along an aeronautical engineer who confirmed that a structure designed to carry 175,000 kg of fuel and 400 people at 900 km/hr through the jet stream should survive at ground level. Hertz launched his career with Syndecrete, a lightweight concrete that utilizes carpet waste, and he has constructed houses from boat hulls and refrigeration panels in his zeal for recycling. Inexpensive natural gas piping is used for structural columns, and the ranch is fenced with the perforated steel mats that are used for military landing strips. Foundations, columns and concrete block walls are much lighter than those in a conventional structure. The cost of fabricating a wing-like roof on site would have been four times greater than flying one in, and the carbon emissions from two hours of helicopter flights were far less than two years of trucking in workers and materials on winding mountain roads. The wings and tail stabilizers that are joined as a swallow tail over the master bedroom are bolted to steel plates that serve as expansion joints and slip-joints above the glass sliders. The two levels of the main house are linked by a spiral stair, with an open living area below, and a master suite above; a guest pavilion and pool are located down the slope. A trio of airplane windows is set into the kitchen wall, and the metallic surfaces, polished mirror smooth or left in their original state, have a surreal beauty in such close proximity to the clutter of domestic living. The wings, cantilevered out at either end, look as though they are about to fly away, and they conduct a dialogue with each other and the sweeping vistas. Richard Neutra described his sleek houses as “machines in the landscape,” and that vision has been raised to a higher plane. Norman Foster was asked to pick a favorite structure and he chose the 747 - for its functional form and its ability to accommodate new technologies in the forty years since it was introduced. Hertz has found a new use for a marvel of technology that might have ended its life as a truckload of Coke cans.