Burning Man’s installations are especially crazy this year

When does a festival become a large-scale infrastructure project?

[Image: Bjarke Ingels & Jakob Lange]

After complex planning and frantic construction, Black Rock City is now fully armed and operational in the Nevada Desert–and even if you think the annual event is a wretched hive, the structures and installations that accompany the festival are actually worth checking out.


First in line is the Orb, designed by Danish architects Bjarke Ingels and Jakob Lange. The gigantic reflective globe was funded by a recent Indiegogo campaign that raised $34,251 for the installation, the support structure of which required 30 tons of steel, welded over 1,000 hours, along with 1,500 hours of sewing of metallic fabric to create its 21,500-square-foot surface.

The fan-powered sphere itself is a massive 83 feet and 8 inches in diameter–1/500,000th of the earth’s surface–and is meant to “blend entirely into its surroundings and become part of the desert,” the duo explain. “The ORB is a tribute to Mother Earth and human expression.”

The idea? Reflect the Playa–the dry lake bed where Black Rock City rises–and the camps that populate it with 65,000 temporary inhabitants.

The other big installation is Temple Galaxia 2018, designed by French architect Arthur Mamou-Mani. It’s the biggest structure in Black Rock City, a work of complex geometry that begins with a funnel shape created by the intersection of twenty circles as they rotate around a center point, generating a mathematical graph that looks like a vortex from above. Its complex wooden triangle supports–2,400 in all–were fabricated at a 4,000-square-foot construction space in the Generator, a maker space in Reno, Nevada, and in another manufacturing space in San Francisco.

Those thousands of pieces were then shipped to the Black Rock Desert, where the Temple Galaxia crew assembled them into its final funnel shape, with “20 timber trusses converging as a spiral toward one point in the sky,” according to the organization.


Inside, hanging from the top center, a giant chandelier of 3D printed tears–which Mamou-Mani says were inspired by his own experience entering a previous Burning Man temple that brought him to tears.  That feels a bit on the nose, but I’m not going to tear these people’s tearing apart.

Lastly, at the center of this New Age spectacle, there’s the Man himself–the effigy that names the festival, which will burn to mark its ending. According to the festival organization, this year’s effigy is a special one, since it was the final version that Burning Man’s cofounder Larry Harvey worked on before his death in April. While the final height, which has been over 40 feet in recent years, hasn’t been announced yet, the organization says that this year’s Man has “more glass than ever and is being craned the furthest distance.”

You’ll have to wait until next Tuesday, September 4, to watch it burn, though. You can find the official live stream below.

About the author

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce and a contributing writer at Fast Company.