Yes, that's really a school bus at Kushner Studios in Chinatown—it's also a metaphor for architecture's power to teach
Kelly Beamon -- Interior Design, 9/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
As an adjunct professor at the New York Institute of Technology, Adam Kushner determined that the new office of his firm, Kushner Studios Architecture + Design, should be as theory-driven as the classroom. Before he even found a space, he'd decided on a yellow school bus as the best vehicle for his message: "I was going to be in the driver's seat, moving the office forward. The bus says, 'I'm a teacher on the move.'"
The narrative was simple. Making it a reality on the top floor of a five-story building in Chinatown was not. First, Kushner consulted eBay for some "education" on who was selling buses. Next, a call to a dealer turned up information on a bus graveyard in New Jersey, close enough for a $450 tow.
Then came disassembly, demanding all of Kushner's expertise as a trained welder, plus his love of engineering. "I have a thing for industrial objects—cars, scooters, subway doors," he says. "I love changing their context but leaving them recognizable. There's an extension of architecture in that."
For 16 weeks, the architect says, he was "elbow-deep in grease," loosening bolts and cutting out "all the guts": engine, drive shaft, radiator. (The Buddhist monastery downstairs lent its empty lot next door for this purpose.) Once the 26,000-pound vehicle was lightened to 8,000, Kushner sawed what was left into 600-pound pieces, small enough to be lifted through a skylight and into the 4,000-square-foot office.
But the drama didn't end there. Kushner hadn't anticipated that the lighter reassembled bus might rise up on its shocks and catch on a ceiling beam, but that's exactly what happened one evening after the crew had gone home. When he tried to maneuver the massive object free by himself, it came loose without warning and started to careen toward him. He was saved only because a spare passenger seat, left out on the floor, luckily got wedged under a bumper. "I was imagining the headlines," Kushner recalls. "Man Killed by Bus in Fifth-Floor Office."
Instead, the story's happy ending takes the form of inspired office space. Inside the bus, Kushner installed a front-to-back row of five project managers' workstations, opposite a long stainless-steel counter set on plastic-laminate cabinets. His own glass-enclosed office, while actually outside the bus, lines up directly with the driver's seat.