Almost every year since 1986, Burning Man devotees have flocked to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to engage in nine days of dance parties, interactive art projects, performances, educational workshops, and more than a little hedonism. 2020 was a notable exception due to the pandemic, and there may be no gathering this year, either. But soon enough, the party will go on, and not just as an annual event. San Francisco-based arts nonprofit Burning Man Project plans to create a permanent 3,800-acre off-grid community called “Fly Ranch,” where their social, ecological, and creative ideals can permanently flourish.
“The project is driven less by a single vision and more by shared interest, a belief in Burning Man culture and community, and mutual curiosity.” Chip Conley, one of the major contributors and early leaders in the project, summarized the organization’s vision as a question rather than an answer: ‘What happens when Burners are invited to co-create a space beyond the playa?’”
The Burning Man Project bought the expansive wetland property in Northern Nevada back in 2016 and partnered with Seattle-based Land Art Generator Initiative to create the LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch design challenge, inviting the public to come up with regenerative concepts for the new development.
An official LAGI statement explains: “Teams were asked to integrate sustainable systems for energy, water, food, shelter, and waste management into works of art in the landscape. The objective is to build the foundational infrastructure for Fly Ranch, support Burning Man Project’s 2030 sustainability goals, and engage a global audience to work together towards systemic transformation, and serve as an inspiration for the developing field of regenerative design.”
The land is pretty special in its own right, hosting Fly Geyser, hot springs, three reservoirs, animals, and more than 100 types of plants. To develop it responsibly, organizers are seeking creative solutions for power, water, food, shelter, and regeneration (i.e. waste disposal). Burning Man Project and LAGI will provide grants to their top 10 design teams to build functional prototypes on site. Those 10 projects, along with the other 42 shortlisted proposals, can be viewed on the LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch website.
The winning projects include “Lodgers,” a series of symbiotic structures made of natural materials that double as homes for wildlife; “Nexus,” a pavilion exploring the design capabilities of a sustainable alternative to concrete; “SEED Symbiotic Coevolution,” a mostly earth-sheltered development incorporating solar, geothermal, passive cooling, composting, greenhouses, and more; “The Source,” a beautiful rammed earth spiral housing a water and energy collector; “Ripple,” a bio-ceramic dome in the center of a permaculture garden, and more.
Ranging from low to high-tech, some projects incorporate ancient methods and materials while others explore exciting new ideas and components. Each one is worth looking at in depth, whether you’re one of the 70,000-odd Burners with a vested interest in Fly Ranch or just a curious onlooker. It’s always cool to see creative concepts for sustainable living that feel like they could actually become a reality soon, and it’ll be really interesting to see what the chosen projects look like after they’re all built.