Burning Man, the annual festival which started as an art experiment with a group of friends in San Francisco thirty years ago, and has now grown into 50,000+ participants, is founded on The Ten Principles: radical inclusion, self-reliance, self-expression, community cooperation, civic responsibility, gifting, decommodification, participation, immediacy, and leaving no trace. This temporary city is constructed in the Black Rock Desert, approximately 100 miles from Reno, Nevada, and is devoted to the celebration of art and cooperation. Participants are encouraged to actively share their creative gifts with others, and to hold nothing back.
And a major part of that artistic celebration is architecture. In addition to smaller structures that inhabit the city, every year a temple is constructed on the site. But there’s one caveat about the built structures at Burning Man: they can “leave no trace,” which means they are burned at the end of the festival. It’s a “collective release,” where all participants unite for the sacrifice of the temple—a cathartic act of letting go. Architect Bjarke Ingels and designer Yves Béhar have voiced their affection for Burning Man, and many visual artists, such as David Best and Arne Quinze, have launched major careers there.
This year the sacrifice will be courtesy of Arthur Mamou-Mani, the designer of Galaxia (pictured above), and the director of Mamou-Mani, a parametric design firm based out of London.
Burning Man architecture is clearly striking, but is the culture surrounding Burning Man—the drugs and the disingenuity of it all—a deterrent for serious architecture lovers? While most of us have scoffed at least once at the culture of Burning Man, is there anything to be learned about the ephemeral nature of cities, how they constantly change and transform, only to be reconstructed again with a different population? Perhaps, like at Burning Man, all urban design is temporary, due to the constant evolution?
Yes, Burning Man has seemed to devolve, especially when they went from being a nonprofit organization to a for-profit company (Black Rock City, LLC) in 2014, but what can we learn about the movement of people, our purpose as city-dwellers, as citizens, as people who have the privilege to share our gifts with others (something you can do with or without Burning Man). Or maybe it’s just a crazy party with some noteworthy, unique design, and we should not read into it all that much?
To find out, or just to see that temple get burned to the ground, this year’s Burning Man is from August 26th – September 3rd. Get more info here.
By: David Plick