The Ephemeral Architecture of Burning Man

All over the world, participants of Burning Man live the entire year in anticipation of the month of August. In about two weeks, the yearly event in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada (which is expected to host 60,000 people) will begin, and Black Rock City will burst out of the desert floor like a giant flower. During the last week of August until Labor Day, these residents (called Burners) will live in their own shelters that they’ve brought to the event. These shelters take on many forms: from berber tents and Monkey Huts to flamboyant RVs and festooned Costco carports. Black Rock City has it all.

Philippe Glade has photographed and blogged about most of these structures during his years of attending Burning Man. His beautiful photographs have now been published in his new book, Black Rock City, NV: The Ephemeral Architecture of Burning Man. The book is 112 pages and contains nearly 200 photos of the structures and shelters built by the denizens of Burning Man.

In a way, the dwellings of Burning Man can be described as vernacular. They are created specifically for the harsh, desert conditions and creative atmosphere of the fifth largest city in Nevada. The structures have to be able to withstand the desert’s 50 mile per hour winds, the boiling sun and allow for airflow and enough room for communal living, cooking and sleeping.

Vertical Camp is covered in garden shade material to allow for airflow and shade from the sun. Downstairs is a large kitchen and living space and the compartments on the top floors contain the bedrooms of the camp residents. Some bedrooms even have faux fur-covered beds and bedside dressers. The views from the top deck are incredible.

These Icosahedron Pods or “IcoPods” are made of lightweight, translucent plastic and are folded out into place, just like origami.

Many Burners opt for a Monkey Hut structure. These shade structures are made of PVC pipe that is curved and placed over a piece of rebar. They can be covered with any type of material.

What works for desert people will work in Black Rock City. This real Berber tent creates a wonderful shady lounging area.

Many Burners will overhaul an RV or trailer to make it fit the Burning Man style.

For a few years, the Chiton has been one of the most beautiful designs in the city. This 21 foot structure is built of 2 inch steel tubing and nylon pack cloth. When you sit inside, the light that streams through the cloth might just make you think you are in Heaven rather than in the middle of the Nevada desert.


Photos courtesy of Philippe Glade


By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]

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Ben Zandstra - August 13, 2012 Reply

My wife & attended Burning Man in 2005. Along with interesting shelters, the bicycles & other means of transportation are worthy of a book as well.

Deek - August 13, 2012 Reply

Very cool- I’ll have to check it out- and I GOTTA make it out there one of these days….-Deek

alice h - August 13, 2012 Reply

Maybe some of the creative minds behind this temporary city could address the problem of permanent tiny house communities. Not quite the same thing, but all those brain cells ought to be able to come up with something.

paul lunemann - August 17, 2012 Reply

Is there a separete website for burning man structures?

Paul Jenkins - August 18, 2012 Reply

Stunning designs! Particularly like Vetical Camp, the IcoPods and Chiton!

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