Inspired by post-Katrina New Orleans, New Yorker
Paul Villinski created Emergency Response Studio
(ERS), a FEMA-style trailer transformed into a fully
functional, sustainably built mobile artist studio. His
vision: a healthy space for visiting artists to embed
themselves in post-disaster settings, and a prototype for what temporary housing can become.
Villinski purchased the 30-foot Gulf Stream
Cavalier through the U.S. Goverment Accountability
Office (GAO), the same agency that sold toxic
FEMA trailers as provisional shelter after Katrina.
Then, for seven months, he worked at gutting and
re-envisioning the trailer using eco-friendly materials donated by more than a dozen sponsors.
The 48-year-old artist says that integrating
mobility into his artwork is a natural progression.
“I grew up an Air Force brat,” Villinski says. “We were
always moving, road-tripping, packing things up …
the gypsy life is in me.”
The result is a bright, inviting space that incorporates rather than excludes its surrounds. Inside, he
insulated the ceiling with recycled pre-consumer
denim scraps; crafted the kitchenette from Plyboo, a
bamboo sheet material; and insulated the walls with
mineral wool derived from blast furnace slag. While
the trailer’s reclaimed plywood wall paneling isn’t
green in the traditional sense, Villinski says it’s probably more sustainable because it was recycled locally.
Some of ERS’ most innovative features include
a crank-down wall that lowers into a sturdy deck
and expands floor space; a sub-floor encasement
holding 1,300 pounds of batteries that store energy
made by rooftop solar panels; and a geodesic
skylight expanding headroom from 6½ to 10 feet.
There’s also a tilt-down mast that supports a wind
turbine, the original version of which Villinski built
using MAKE’s instructions (see Volume 05, page 90).
After touring Texas this spring, ERS is headed for
Wesleyan University in the fall, but not before catching some rest. “Believe it or not, I’ve never spent the
night in it,” Villinski says. “I’d like to this summer.”
>> Response Studio: emergencyresponsestudio.org
Photograph courtesy Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans
22 Make: Volume 18