The New Ephemeral Architecture of Burning Man

Philippe Glade has been a fan of Burning Man for 20+ years. He takes time every year to travel the entirety of Black Rock City looking for amazing examples of architecture. He has brought us the Golden Rebar awards, which we covered here:

2015 Golden Rebar Awards: Pods Pervade the Playa

2014 Golden Rebar Awards

2013 Golden Rebar Awards

This is Black Rock City

Philippe finally took his work and published it as a book, thinking that others in the community would be interested in what took years of his life. We get a shout-out in the book, Burners.Me is thanked for being the “counter-culture” of Burning Man.

The book was featured in Architectural Digest, WIRED, Curbed, and CNN.

Sadly, only 289 people were interested enough to buy one. Philippe, disillusioned, plans to quit Burning Man for good and burn the remaining copies of his book. He says “as far as I see participants are not really into the fabric of their city, this is a sour surprise for me.”

Philippe wrote a sad farewell on his blog This Is Black Rock City

After 21 burns and 10 years blogging it’s time to call it quits.

This blog was created to be more reactive than my old pages
going back to 1996 and with the hope to inspire and grow
a community of like-minded participants building a functioning city
in an inhospitable environment while having fun, mostly.

Within the years I posted thousands of images of camps, structures,
along with hundreds of reliable links, which was an exhausting labor of love,
my ethereal gift to the community.

The Golden Rebar Award was created to highlight the innovative
or most surprising shelters that I considered as important
as the various art installations all along the playa.

My secret fantasy was to have an informal and zany ceremony were I could give away the physical Golden Rebar Awards.

Instead of that, I made a book.

2 years were spent on  Research / Writing / Editing / Design and Layout (which paid off with a 2017 Graphic Design Award) / Production and Problem Solving /
The result was a burner worthy book with a tactile cloth cover and blind embossing, packed with info, data, tips and, most of all, a very large visual spectrum of our vernacular architecture.

One year was spent on a worldwide promotional campaign with stellar results: features on CNN, Wired, Wallpaper (of all!!), Architectural Digest and more (not too bad for a Frenchman working alone from a tiny San Francisco bedroom)

From around the world 289 buyers daringly purchased this self-reliant project.

This dismal performance resulted in several drastic personal changes.

As for the commodification debate, the goal was with the profit,
to publish limited edition books of two talented playa photographers.

Instead of working on this exciting project, I am looking, now,
for international movers to cheaply and sheepishly
regroup and recoup overseas.
Time to burn the page.

Unable to keep a sales structure and book cases in storage,
by respect for my daring 289 buyers, the remaining books (850)
will be terminated (Baker beach style) at the end of the year
without any Black Friday, French tickler Sunday or Tutu Tuesday.

The good news is: there will be one less photographer on the playa
and one less overwhelming blog to read.

Support Philippe and buy one of the limited edition books before they are gone forever. It’s really very good, the range of Burnitecture on display is truly mind-blowing. Big thanks and much kudos to Philippe for taking the photos, and all the imaginative Burners who created the structures.

The Global Leadership Conference for 2018 has been called off, perhaps to avoid answering awkward questions raised by our Shadow History of Burners investigation. Is this it for Burning Man now? Are people just over it? Is it really a lifestyle and ideology that can change the world, or is it just a fun party for one week a year?

Will other temporary cities emerge with this kind of ephemeral architecture? I sure hope so.

Re-blogged from This Is Black Rock City

Welcome to Black Rock City 2017 Golden Rebar Awards

Golden Rebar for keeping up 
with Buckminster Fuller
Black Lotus Society Camp with true geodesic sphere of 24′ diameter
Golden Rebar for Serene Scene
Serene is the least word you would associate Black Rock City with.
Weathered burners know this place, so I will not mention it in a vain attempt to keep it as is,
an oasis of silence
Octayurts in the Mindfield
Sometimes there is a fine line between an art installation and a camp
There goes the Neighborhood Golden Rebar
Suburbia Camp 2017 once again brought tongue-in-cheek and joie de vivre with its white picket fences, plywood mansions, mailboxes, astroturf and traffic lights
Caravan of Light Camp 2017 with portal
Caravan of Light Camp with many Bell tents
Mayan Warrior Camp with Alien Buffalo Tents
Tension tent with SHIFTPODs for Serendipitea Camp


Black Rock City Shelter

Cloud Extruded. Courtesy of Philippe Glade.

philippe glade
Black Rock City Shelter

The Chiton. Courtesy of Philippe Glade.

philippe glade
Black Rock City Shelter

Sacred Spaces Village. Courtesy of Philippe Glade.

philippe glade
Black Rock City Shelter

Hundertwasser House. Courtesy of Philippe Glade

Read more at This Is Black Rock City.

2015 Golden Rebar Awards: Pods Pervade the Playa

This year, pods dominate the Golden Rebar Awards – which may need their name changed to Golden Screw, after everyone’s favorite Playa McGyver FIGJAM (Fuck I’m Good, Just Ask Me) won the Structural Upgrade award:

“Structural Upgrade” Golden Rebar goes to Figjam

Popularized thanks to the research and feedbacks of FIGJAM, a knowledgeable burner on numerous ePlaya threads, a 1/2″X18 or 3/8″X14 lag screw with 2 round links of chain drilled vertically in the playa with an impact driver, anchors a one-level shelter faster and safer than the time tested rebars.
Anyone interested in this technique must read this thread. Apparently a lot of participants did it, this year it was the anchor of choice in many places.
Should I rename my award The Golden Screw?

This is my closest neighbor’s windward anchor for his classic EMT metal frame shade. It endured a week of unrelenting winds without moving a centimeter. As for my shade anchored with 22 angled rebars that took 90 min to pound in, some were loose with 2 ready to pop out something that never happened before, thanks to these years of French Riviera weather. My neighbor anchored his camp in 5 min.

The ShiftPod, designed by Burners as a camp solution, made their debut at this year’s Burning Man. Reports were excellent, problems were few; a great result for a first attempt. They won Pop-Up Tent of the Year.

“Pop-up Tent of the Year” Golden Rebar for
 The Shiftpod

The most talked about tent went viral from 1 last year to nearly 400 of them this year on the playa. 
This space-age looking adult size tent 6.5ft/2m high was designed by BRC veteran Christian W, leader of Shift camp, with burners needs in mind and adapted to the peculiar weather pattern of the city.
Fast to set up and take down the strong pop-up frame associated with reinforced corners resisted the fierce 2015 storms, floor and doors have large zippers, the three-layer UV-reflective nylon fabric helped sleep in and without mesh minimized dust invasion. 
Most of the campers interviewed were satisfied but some advised for an overhead shade or the easy addition of A/C with the provided vents to achieve Hexayurt cool. 
This well though out Shiftpod is a great addition to the small family of desert proof shelters. 
With Christian W willingness to improve this product through owners feedback, soon it could be as popular as the ubiquitous canvas Springbar and Kodiak tents in the same price range.

Large enough to really accommodate two campers, a queen-size bed can fit in.

The portal windows have removable covers and the air vents can be closed to prevent dust in.

We are at Mayan Warrior camp not on the moon

Shift Pod founder Christian says:
IMG_6962We are very excited about the “Golden Rebar Award” and really the support we have received from our community.  After putting so much in over the last 20+ years it is very rewarding to “feel the love” and support from everyone.  The SHIFTPODS we conceived, designed, built and delivered all within 8 months.  We got them out to the playa just in time and had a problem rate of less than 6%.  I think we did pretty good for the first run in one of the harshest environments in the world! Now we have taken the feedback and made several improvements including fixing zipper issues, making the stakes longer, and making clear instructions so the 2 (overtired) people who tried to set the SHIFTPODS up inside out won’t do that again. The new version of the SHIFTPOD can be ordered now for February delivery.
Things are really taking off.  We have transitioned from camp fundraising project to real company and we have a team of burners all contributing to make things go fast forward. Its great to be able to work with friends that actually get things done and say “lets make it happen” rather than that can’t be done. We are now prepped for hyper growth and are very excited for 2016!  
DSC_6393We have just released our new video and are working on several others, we have launched a new web site, developed a new super cool roller travel bag, several new accessories and are working on a new playa ready AC / Heater unit specifically for the SHIFTPOD ( it looks like they re-purposed a bunch of the best patio heaters, it actually looks good).  We have also set up a B2B rental company, and have several large events we will be providing SHIFTPODS for.  We have set up a distribution partnership that will help us manage delivering 500 SHIFTPODS in 2015 to tens of thousands next year.
As a camp support project the SHIFTPODS were able to raise money to support camp SHIFT (9:45 & Esplanade) with the Ferris wheel, they provided the ability to send SHIFTPODS to Nepal, Napa and now to Greece.  They also helped support our efforts to send Burning Man bikes to kids in Cuba.  Moving forward, the SHIFTPODS will continue to support camp SHIFT and our efforts.  In addition to this, for every 20 SHIFTPODS sold we will contribute one to a family in need right here in the USA!  Fires, earthquakes, floods and tornadoes happen all the time.  We want to be ready to help in times of need.  We hope to expand this program by challenging big (Burner Run) companies like Yahoo, Google, Tesla, Zappos  and others to brand SHIFTPODS and then store them at the ready, to be deployed to the next disaster.  The hope is they will spend some of their marketing or social responsibility budgets on SHIFTPODS to help people in need.  We are setting up a 501(c)3 specifically for this project and reaching out to family offices and large companies for support.
I know it sounds a bit “hippie dippy” but we really want to maintain the vibe and grow organically.  We want to have close connections to our “customers/users”, we want to work with our capable friends, and really keep this as a “For Us – By Us” company.
Join Us!  Lets have some fun, lets make a difference, lets create a SHIFT.  Please send us SHIFTPOD photos, watch the video, find us on Facebook and Instagram and spread the word! 

Burner innovation, helping other Burners and helping the world too. Love it. Here’s the video he mentioned:

Shift Camp are not the only Burners coming up with their own high-tech housing solutions based on years of personal Playa experience.

If there is a pod spectrum with the open source hexayurt design, Shiftpods and disaster relief at one end; then the dhomain dhomes are more at the other end, where relief is something Billionaire Burners seek from their Mistresses of Merriment after a hard day’s jaunting on their VIP art cars.

“The Future has landed” Golden Rebar goes to
Dhomain by Michael Beneville

Designer Michael Beneville created dhomain, a rapidly deployable multi-purpose space with all the amenities of modern living. This blow-up temporary house uses constant positive air pressure to shape the living space in a 9 ft high dome while permanently inflated beams keep the structural integrity of the shelter should its skin be punctured. 
Inside, a core made of modular panels, contains a functional kitchen, a toilet, a shower stall and a closet. The structural and technical hub with A/C and a pipes network partitions the entire area of 300 sq ft/28 m2 in a bedroom with a queen size bed and a living room with couch and coffee table.
When the skin and beams are deflated and packed around the core, 8 of them fit on a flatbed truck to be dispatched for emergency shelters under any climate.
Of course, this fantastic forward-looking temporary habitat with such accommodations is not for the average burner but Black Rock City is an all-embracing community where everyone as long as they participate are welcomed.
Michael Beneville with dhomain responded to an understandable quest of well-being in a creative and innovative way that broadens the field of ephemeral architecture.

7 dhomains were part of the very friendly and open Camp Psyclone.

The living room of Michael Beneville’s dhomain.

The core/hub with the kitchen with oven, micro wave, hot plate and fridge.

The other side of the core/hub with shelves and closet, behind the left panel there is the shower stall.

The bedroom in the Michael Beneville dhomain.

RVs are SOOOOO 20th Century, dude. Pop-up bat caves are where its at.

As well as “just like a bought one” production-ready pods, highly customized pods were popular too, mixing Art and Architecture – artchitecture?

“New Shape” Golden Rebar for
 the Rhombi by Gregg Fleishman

To house their 20″ telescope at the Black Rock Observatory, the Desert Wizards of Mars conducted by “Major Tom”Varden asked architect/artist/visionary Gregg Fleishman to build an open sky planetarium.
Gregg, the 2013 Temple and Otic Oasis designer, came up with a brand new structure shaped as a 
rhombicuboctahedron that I will shorten for obvious reason to the “Rhombi”.
Made of 14 ply Latvian Birch CNC milled interlocking wood pieces, this octahedral dome flat packs and sets up without screws or fasteners using only slots and notches to connect all the parts.

 “Jules Verne” Golden Rebar goes to
 Scott Parenteau

Not only busy participating in the construction of the Black Rock Observatory, Scott Parenteau
already a Golden Rebar recipient in 2013 with his metal pods, brought to the playa his latest creation, the smallest 2-person shelter in the world.
During the day in its vertical position it is a kitchen with a shower head and storage, at night using the gears fashioned by Scott, the pod goes in horizontal position where with added plywood panels the unit transforms in a 2 person bedroom with a skylight looking at the milky way.

A view of the kitchen/bathroom with stainless steel sink

The pod in nighttime position, the flexible conduit carries utility cables for water and electricity.

Made by Scott Parenteau

One of my favorite architects, the Austrian Hundertwasser who lived much of his life in New Zealand, got a look in:

“Burner in Wonderland” Golden Rebar for the
Hundertwasserhaus of John deJong

Long time burner John deJong wanted to participate with an abode of his own that would be easy to setup and take down. 
An admirer of the iconoclastic architecture of Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000) John built a free standing Black Rock City landmark with three stories made of interlocking plywood panels that albeit quirky looking sustained without problem the fierce winds sweeping relentlessly the playa.

John’s wife at the window

This theme camp came up with a simple idea that is easy to run and a great gift for everyone.

  “High” Golden Rebar for Camp Panorama

With a structure made of modular aluminum trusses camp Panorama offered after an exhausting ascent a comfortable platform to enjoy the city up in the air.A good example of interactive camp by nature.

Best overall theme camp was…

“Theme Camp” Golden Rebar goes to 
Camp Suburbia
The usual purpose of coming to Black Rock City is to escape the day-to-day grind of the city, eschew homogenization and look at a brand new landscape. Some burners from Seattle, Portland and Bend  thinking out of the box brought to the vast expanse of the desert a colorful touch of normality.
Complete with the lawnmowers, garages, mailboxes, satellite dishes and the open trench waiting for DPW to come fix the sewer leak, this village of 8 houses built with frames and plywood panels was inhabited by an entertaining group of anything but bored suburbanites.

See the rest of the award winners here. Thanks to all Burners who are innovating in architecture and temporary housing at Burning Man and beyond – the world really needs it.

Philippe Glade’s 2011 book The Ephemeral Architecture of Burning Man sold out at 1100 copies, and no more will be produced. But next year he will release a new book, Black Rock City, NV  The New Ephemeral Architecture of Burning Man – covering the years 2011-2015. If you want to participate in this project, please contact Philippe.

2014 Golden Rebar Awards

Every year, This Is Black Rock City presents the “Golden Rebar Awards” to camps that show innovative architecture. This year, there were some truly spectacular winners. Philippe Glade says:

This year, 2014 (my 18th burn), the streets of BRC were bursting with either small or huge shelters as well as makeshift or well planned camps. It was the year of the connectors, several designers came up with metal, wood or acetate resin nodes, resulting in easy to pack and assemble structures.
The city became more than ever a vibrant laboratory for daring creators looking in different directions to solve the equation of a simply built, extremely resistant, not too expensive and easy to haul shelter.
Because they are not mentioned on any maps I have to explore relentlessly all the streets of my dusty city in search of the diamond in the rough. 
The result of this urban exploration is this blog and these Golden Rebars  that, hopefully, with discernment and a bit of zaniness I award on the merits of creativity, design and architectural breakthrough.
See the full list here.

Some highlights:

Cloud Extruded by Frannie Marchese

Golden Rebar for Creativity
Using cut strips of insulation panels, the same used to build hexayurts,
Frannie spent 5 days preparing her shelter that was setup on the playa in
2 hours.

The ubiquitous markings of the insulation panels were painted over and coded for fast installation

She even had a marine toilet connected to a grey water tank.


The Playa Painted Lady

Golden Rebar for Whimsicality

Three story high with a top deck, this house could easily be found in pre-war Vienna, Europe.


The Pallet Palace

Golden Rebar for Repurposing

A frame of recycled 2×4 held the walls made of used pallets
Other use of pallets

Red Lightning Camp

Golden Rebar for Best Camp Design

This superb camp was designed and built by GuildWorks, founded by Mar C. Ricketts, who by serendipity was featured in my book (now sold-out) with his poetic installation Flight of the Future Seed in 2006.
This architect of the air also designed last year golden rebar winner for best camp design Sacred Spaces Village.

Check out the rest at thisisblackrockcity