Building Fractal Cult and Shipwreck at Burning Man 2013

We’re back from the desert! Very proud to have completed two beautiful projects at the Burning Man festival 2013 with our DS10 students and guests from the Architectural Association, Columbia University and UCL.

Credits to the team:

Team: Toby Burgess and Arthur Mamou-Mani a.k.a. Ratchet and Baby Cup (Project Directors), Thanasis Korras (Designer of Fractal Cult), Georgia Rose Collard-Watson (Designer of Shipwreck), Jessica Beagleman (Food & Meals), Natasha Coutts (Camp and Rentals), Sarah Shuttlesworth, Andy Rixson,  Luka Kreze, Tim Strnad, Philippos Philippidis, Nataly Matathias, Marina Karamali, Harikleia Karamali, Antony Joury, Emma Whitehead, , Jo Cook, Caitlin Hudson, Dan Dodds and Chris Ingram.

Engineers: Ramboll Computational Design (RCD) –  Stephen Melville, Harri Lewis, James Solly

Suppliers: Hess Precision (Plywood Laser Cutting), One-to-Metal, (Metal Punching and Folding), Safway (Scaffolding), West Coast Netting (Netting)

Special Thanks: BettieJune, Ben Stoelting, Kevin Meers, Caroline Holmes, Chloe Brubaker, Papa Bear,

Photos by Jo Cook, Arthur Mamou-Mani, Toby Burgess, Luka Kreze, Thanasis Korras, Antony Joury. 

Back view Just before burning Shipwreck
Back view Just before burning Shipwreck
Front view of the Fractal Cult timber pods and Scaffolding
Front view of the Fractal Cult timber pods and Scaffolding

Here are couple more pictures of the finished projects:

A view of the Shipwreck with the man and a fish Art Car
A view of the Shipwreck with the man and a fish Art Car
Enjoying the sun on the shipwreck - back view
Enjoying the sun on the shipwreck – back view
Three french burners on the hammock
Three french burners on the hammock
A burner relaxing on the Fractal Cult scaffolding
A burner relaxing on the Fractal Cult scaffolding
View of timber pods and festival in background
View of timber pods and festival inbackground
View of timber pods with shipwreck and man in background
View of timber pods with shipwreck and man in background
Interior of the Fractal Cult during Day time
Interior of the Fractal Cult during Day time
Fractal Cult at night time
Fractal Cult at night time

Some images of the construction of Shipwreck, from the collection of the pieces all the way to the assembly

The group in front of Shipwreck
The group in front of Shipwreck

Shipwreck building Burning Man 2013

Construction process, the shipwreck hammock cantilever being erected
Construction process, the shipwreck hammock cantilever being erected
A view of the construction before adding the hammock strips
A view of the construction before adding the hammock strips
Building the shipwreck - finishing the cave part.
Building the shipwreck – finishing the cave part.
All the Shipwreck parts unrolled on the desert floor before assembly
All the Shipwreck parts unrolled on the desert floor before assembly
The shipwreck flat packed in the 24ft truck.
The shipwreck flat packed in the 24ft truck.

Images of the construction process of Fractal Cult until the burn:

Burning Man 2013
Burning Fractal Cult in the Communal Burn
Toby, Luka and Tim assembling the scaffolding for Fractal cult
Toby, Luka and Tim assembling the scaffolding for Fractal cult
Fractal Cult's scaffolding assembly is based on this smaller physical model
Fractal Cult’s scaffolding assembly is based on this smaller physical model
The scaffolding being assembled in the middle of the pods
The scaffolding being assembled in the middle of the pods
Assembling the first pod
Assembling the first pod
The Fractal Cult pods being assembled.
The Fractal Cult pods being assembled.
Getting the ground anchors in for the pods
Getting the ground anchors in for the pods
Getting the scaffolding in the 24ft truck
Getting the scaffolding in the 24ft truck

Finally, how we made our camp look more like a home and less like a refugee camp:

Our camp as it looked at the end
Our camp as it looked at the end
Protecting ourselves from a dust storm!
Protecting ourselves from a dust storm!
Assembling the Hexayurts
Assembling the Hexayurts
The group in our kitchen
The group in our kitchen
One of our two food runs in Reno - Feeding 20 people in the desert.
One of our two food runs in Reno – Feeding 20 people in the desert.
Getting the camp from a lockup in Reno
Getting the camp from a lockup in Reno

A beautiful view of the festival itself at sunrise:

Burning Man Camps and Playa at Sunrise
Burning Man Camps and Playa at Sunrise

Here is a text that we wrote about the experience:

Diploma Studio 10:
Diploma Studio 10 at the University of Westminster is led by Toby Burgess and Arthur Mamou-Mani. They both believe that involvement is key to the process of learning and therefore always try to get their students to “get out and build” their designs in the real world. The studio starts the year with the study of systems, natural, mathematical and architectural systems of all sort, paired with intense software training in order to build up skills and a set of rules to design a small scale project which they will be able to build during a real event in the summer. Throughout the year, they build large scale prototypes and draw very accurate technical drawings, they also need to provide a budget and explain how it makes sense within the wider context of the festival, some of them will event start crowd-funding campaign to self-finance the projects. Our ultimate goal is to give them an awareness of entrepreneurship in Architecture and how to initiate projects as this is for us the best way to fight unemployment in our profession.
Burning Man and the 10 Principles:
The Burning Man festival takes place every summer in Black Rock desert, Nevada. It is a “participant-led” festival in which the activities are initiated by the people attending it. There are around 60,000 “burners” every year building a giant temporary city in which they create a social experiment which follows the 10 principles of Burning Man. They conclude the festival by burning a large sculpture of a Man.
What interested Toby and Arthur are the 10 principle which guide the “burners”: Radical Self-Reliance, Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Leaving No trace, to name a few. Designing with these rules in mind help students understand basic issues of sustainability. Designing for Burning Man also helps the students to design with “playfulness” in mind, as all the structures have to be climbable and interactive. We are not the only one inspired by these rules, Sergei Brin, co-founder of Google, asks all his staff to follow the principles when they come up with new ideas.
The Story:
On our first year at Westminster we found out that our student could submit their Burning Man proposals and receive a grant from the organizers. After receiving 20 submissions from the same school, the organizers were very intrigued and decided to contact us. The director of the Art Grant told us that she loved the project but that all of them were just not possible in the context. She decided to visit us in London to explain what we could do to submit better projects the following year which we did. On the second run, the festival chose two projects, Shipwreck by Georgia Rose Collard-Watson and Fractal Cult by Thanasis Korras.
These two projects are representative of the way we run our studio: Thanasis looked at Fractal on Brief01 and Georgia looked at ways to bend and assemble strips of wood together. They both explored these systems before submitting a project with a very strong narrative which fitted perfectly the burning man philosophy. Thanasis linked his Fractal to the symbol of “Merkaba” whereas Georgia told the story of a shipwreck which offered shelter from the dust storms.
Once the project got chosen, we partnered with an engineer, Ramboll and started researching for suppliers and fabrication facilities in the USA. We took the 3D files from concept all the way parametric models for fabrication. We started a Gantt chart with every step to take from rental of 24ft truck, collection of item all the way to demolition.
One of the main aspect that required a lot of planning was the camp. We had to plan every meal and food that would not perish under the extreme condition. We also found a way to rent a whole camp equipment from past burners.
On site:
The team grew little by little, many of our student could not afford the trip or could not take such a long time off so we asked around if anyone else would like to join us and thanks to our blog posts and active social networking online, students from the Architectural Association, Columbia or UCL started showing interest and joined the team.
Our first surprise on site was the power of the dust storm. One of our Yurt flew away and some of us got stuck in different places of the site seeking shelter. We were terrorised. Sleeping in tents was also extremely hard as you would be awaken by temperatures approaching 40degrees celcius, at the end of the construction, a lot of us would sleep in the foam hexayurts in which we were storing equipment at first.
We learned so much.

Author: Arthur Mamou-Mani

Arthur Mamou-Mani AA dipl, ARB/RIBA FRSA – is a French architect, director of Mamou-Mani Architects, specialised in a new kind of digitally designed and fabricated architecture. He is a lecturer at the University of Westminster and owns a digital fabrication laboratory called the Fab.Pub which allows people to experiment with large 3D Printers and Laser Cutters. Arthur has been selected as one of the RIBAj's 2017 cohort of Rising Stars. He has won the Gold Prize at the American Architecture Prize for the Wooden Wave project installed at BuroHappold Engineering and since 2016, he is a fellow of the The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Prior to founding Mamou-Mani in 2011, he worked with Atelier Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid Architects and Proctor and Matthews Architects.

6 thoughts on “Building Fractal Cult and Shipwreck at Burning Man 2013”

    1. Hi MAciej! We hope so. We will apply again for the grant and see how it goes. We learnt so much this summer that we could make the structures much better this year 🙂 I’ll add you on the list of motivated people, bare in mind it is three weeks off the radar…

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