Relicta Design makes products out of aircraft carcasses coming from bone yards across the globe. It now plans to launch its collection in the Middle East. Jenny Eagle investigates
Relicta Design (from the Latin residue/carcass) makes office furniture from derelict aeroplane parts.
The company was set up two years ago by Rosario Gallina (far left) and Tiziano Rutilo (right) to create decorative and modern furniture using old planes.
“The idea is to recycle and re-value these forgotten items to give them a second life,” said Gallina.
“We develop and create unique homemade pieces of furniture that allow us to deliver products meeting any kind of needs.”
The results are an exclusive one-of-a-kind production including desks from a wing, flap, stabilisator, or a coffee table from a wing, flap, engine, seats from a nose cowl B737, reception desks from a nose cowl B-747 and art-deco from fuselage.
After the company successfully launched its products on the Belgian market, it now plans to expand into the Middle East.
“Travelling has always been our passion. Before starting Relicta Design, we had regular jobs, in a totally diverse sector of activity where we had to travel almost 80% of our time,” said Rutilo.
“Our job was to organise congresses all over the world, which is the reason why we spent literally thousands of hours in the air, coming from one time zone into another during a whole month. It is a way of life for us and the few remaining days we had off, we spent exploring for pleasure to discover new cultures and businesses. It was during one of these holidays that we decided to create the company.”
Having spent numerous hours in the air, the pair wondered what happens to aeroplanes when they become obsolete.
“Obviously today, we cannot fly on the same kind of airplanes that we actually manufacture. We normally work on DC9 or MD80 which still exist, but it is hard to find a European-based company that still uses them,” added Rutilo.
“We normally fly on an Airbus or Boeing. My favourite is the B-777 but we finally succeeded this year in jumping on the huge A380 from Airbus. It was absolutely amazing, and we would love to create furniture out of an A380 even though the material used in this plane is definitely not the same as the aircrafts of the last century.”
The businessmen discovered an aeroplane cemetery in the Mojave Desert, in California, and upon seeing this, decided it would be a good idea to make use of this new opportunity.
“The Mojave Desert is about three hours drive from LA. Here, you can find a couple of guys who own a piece of the desert and their business is so unique in that they keep surplus aeroplanes for the airline companies that cannot afford to fly anymore, due to the economic crisis; they sell spare parts of old planes to put on new ones (ie the engine, cockpit); and they sell them to Hollywood to film action movies and explosions in the desert. So when an aircraft becomes obsolete, they manage to still make money from it,” added Gallina.
The business partners met in college, when they were studying for a bachelors degree in international trade and Rutilo, a masters degree in business studies. They both originate from Italy and set up their office in Brussels, Belgium.
They are currently looking to find dealers in other parts of the world who can showcase their designs. They recently approached potential sponsors in the Middle East to expand this market and the duo plan to exhibit their creations at this year’s Index Exhibition in Saudi Arbaia in March and Dubai in September.
The company has also found interest with some art galleries in Lebanon (Beirut) who want to display their products.
“Our inspiration comes from two axis. Firstly, we have a passion for design, interior furniture and architecture. Our Italian origin and background definitely has an influence. Being a decorator, a designer or an architect is just something you are born with or have a feeling for. You can develop it by having a master degree in that sector but in the end, you either have a passion for it or you don’t,” said Gallina.
“We bought some apartments in Brussels and decorated them ourselves with specific objects, colours and items. Our friends love them so much that some of them asked us to decorate their own apartments.
The equation was simple: love for design + passion for traveling + business studies = potential business.”
This passion was ignited when the two men saw the potential for these old aircrafts and what they could create from them.
“We just got excited and decided to jump ahead with this crazy project,” added Gallina.
“Secondly, we both have a concern for the environment and we found the idea of recycling old metal carcasses totally aligned with our values.”
The challenges they faced were the complexities of working with this particular type of aircraft metal (aluminum).
It is unlike any other material and involves hard-work cutting, shaping, sanding, polishing and finishing.
“We are working on old pieces of aircraft made of specific material. It is not only just made of aluminum but a mixture of different elements that allow the airplane to resist any kind of temperature,” said Rutilo.
“That is the reason why we have to work carefully and with specific kind of products made especially for airplanes to polish and finish them.
“The main goal is to find similar metals that can be integrated with this, the airplane aluminum (eg the ‘feet’ for the table are made with a different kind of material, but the goal is to integrate the two metals together). Having said that, we have to admit sometimes we are prevented by technical issues due to the fact that our material is by definition so unique and you cannot do whatever you want with such metals and shapes. However, our creativity is endless.”
Relicta is currently working on a project for a German client who bought a penthouse in Bangkok, Thailand.
He wants them to create a 7m long dinner table from an entire DC9 tail stabiliser. He hopes to place the table on his outdoor rooftop, with the advantage that the material can withstand any outdoor temperature. The delivery is due for April 2012.
Other projects for the firm include: an exhibition at Top Marques Monaco, and a fair for high profile clients and brands from April 19-22.
“Since the idea and concept of Relicta Design has taken off pretty well and quite rapidly, we are planning to go back to California at the beginning of 2012 to get other raw material and find new parts of airplanes to develop,” added Rutilo.
“The aeroplane parts always come from the same part of the Mojave Desert but we have also discovered another bone yard in Arizona and New Mexico where it is possible to buy not only commercial airplanes but also military ones. It could be another branch of our products if we can get our hands on one of those.
“Apparently we need government authorisation to enter the bone yard but it could be an exciting challenge for next year,” he added.