Every summer, photos of otherworldly pavilions, tricked-out steampunk cars, and dusty hula-hoopers ingesting empathogens slide onto Instagram feeds worldwide thanks to Burning Man, the nine-day worldbuilding experiment in the remote Black Rock Desert of Nevada. Soon, though, burners won’t have to wait all year to meet up as Burning Man organizers have released design proposals for a permanent home near the festival site.
The proposals were gathered via an international design competition organized by the San Francisco-based nonprofit behind Burning Man in collaboration with the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI), an art nonprofit based in Seattle.
While the top designs were revealed to the public last week, Burning Man purchased the 3,800-acre Nevada property those designs will be tested on back in 2016. The site, dubbed Fly Ranch, is meant to be a year-round incubator for burner culture—a place where community members can create an artful settlement that vibes with desert ecology. First held in 1986 as a modest summer solstice event held at Baker Beach in San Francisco, Burning Man has since grown into a global phenomenon with attendance for the 2019 festival topping 78,000 people. The 2020 festival was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic although a significantly smaller fête was held in San Francisco.
The LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch Design Challenge yielded almost 200 entries from which jurors selected ten frontrunners and a handful of shortlisted projects. Teams were asked to design from the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs—food, water, shelter—on up to energy, water, and waste management infrastructure. Of course, every element had to look nice, too.
Most proposals also included areas for learning and gathering, permaculture systems for growing food, and designs that used earth-friendly materials. The ten winners will split $150,000 in honoraria that will fund the construction of prototypes on-site this summer.
The jurors’ top pick is designed to foster deeper kinship between humans and the biosphere. Lodgers: Serendipity in the Fly Ranch Wilderness features parametrically-modeled wood structures shaped like scallions, garlic, and macadamia nuts. (They’re pictured at the top of this page.) The middle structure is an environmental education center, while the one on the left is a viewing tower. The comparatively diminutive building on the right is a composting toilet. Lodgers also features soil replenishment scheme and incubators for native species arranged along a central axis. The proposal was conceived by Massachusetts Institute of Technology architecture students Zhicheng Xu and Mengqi Moon He.
The other nine top proposals are featured below. (All captions are courtesy of the LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch Design Challenge.) Hungry for more eco-tecture? The boards for these and all other design proposals submitted to the LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch Design Challenge can be found here.