For over 50 years the American west has provided a strategic landscape for weapons testing and training, creating a legacy in its development of uniquely modern building types. This project will document the airplane hangar, a building type that was born in the 20th century, and because of its particular need for large columnless space, became a leading source of engineering achievement and innovation.

The American southwest is a silent collector of many of the innovative developments in hangar design over the past half-century. In the abandoned and closed airfields of the west we can trace the history of the hangar from its prewar beginnings to examples of some of the largest wood and steel structures ever built. WWII was an especially prolific period in military architecture as material shortages and time pressures necessitated an innovative and mass producible approach to construction. These War time buildings led to new methods of prefabrication, new structural steel and wood long span trusses, and advanced uses of reinforced concrete, and plywood.

The Airplane hangar has an interesting and influential role in the history of modern architecture. War time structures and material innovations had a strong influence on the work of Mies van der Rohe , Walter Gropius, Charles and Ray Eames, and Buckminster Fuller, who advocated using War time innovations for an new kind of architecture based in structural efficiency and mass production. This survey will attempt to bring attention to these innovative structures and help us to understand their role in the development of the structural systems we commonly use today.

( click hangars for more images)