Last week, the Kern County planning commissioned unanimously approved a permit for "Terminal," an art piece consisting of a 727 buried 38 feet below the Mojave Desert near Boron and accessible to only 15 people per week. Swiss artist Christoph Buchel is known for creating huge, crazy environments, and in the US for getting into a legal tussle over a very expensive aborted project at Mass MoCA (the museum "balked at acquiring a burnt-out fuselage of a 737 airliner"). The project's structural engineer, Derrick Roorda of Buro Happold, explained "Terminal" at last week's meeting (which we caught on video): "the concept is to dig a great big hole, put the airplane in it, and fill it back up" (the hole will displace about 5,600 cubic yards of soil, according to a staff member who spoke at the meeting). The plane will be connected to parking about 420 feet away by a tunnel, which will start ten feet below grade and slop down to 25 feet below grade. The idea is to make the land look as untouched as possible and there will be no external structures or signs to indicate that there's a giant airplane buried there. Buchel chose the land because it's close to mining and aviation sites.
While all the dangerous stuff like engines and jet fuel will be removed, the artist will put in new electrical, plumbing, and ventilation, and intends to make the bathrooms functional for visitors by hooking them up to a septic system. Water will either come from a well or be trucked in.
As for how many people an underground plane in the Mojave can possibly accommodate, it'll be very few. Visitors will be brought to the site in three shuttle trips of five people each per week. That means Buchel is going through all that trouble (and expense--he's funding the whole thing himself) to bury a plane that only about 780 people a year will see.
· Commission OKs airplane burial [Bakersfield.com]