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A geometric wall of fire burning on the sands of the Black Rock Desert. This immobile blaze stands as an edifice to Burning Man’s original figurehead. A burning yet fireless wall of plywood and acetate that can be encountered, entered and sheltered in.

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This sculpture stands as an abstract image of flames sent by Vulcan the Roman God of fire, an emblem of the festival’s name. Created from a series of plywood shapes and acrylic, Vulcan’s Flame is a blazing wall of light and colour. The structure is created to both imitate and juxtapose chemical fire, sharing real fires beauty but opposing its destructive tendencies. The sculpture is designed as a wall of shelter, behind which burners can be shielded from the desert’s unforgiving sun.

Born from Ancient Egyptian ‘Cairo tiling’, the sculpture is created from morphing polyhedra. The lowest section of the fire is created from cubes which gradually deform into rhombic dodecahedrons – a cubist interpretation of a flames movement. Internally every shape is painted to mimic fire’s bright hues and coloured acetate panels within the wall will project red and yellow tones onto the surrounding desert floor. At night internal spotlights will illuminate the entire structure, creating a glowing inferno of colour. These lights will flicker to create the illusion of movement.

Visually the main structure consists of three main forms;

  • The outer zone: the sparse cubic section of the sculpture, representing the hottest part of a flame, the region of complete combustion
  • The middle zone: this is the central area in which the cubic deformation begins to occur.
  • The inner zone: this is the coolest space, the most densely packed red area of the sculpture. Burners can crawl into this space – sheltered by four layers of dodecahedrons.

Rendered Plan

Physical Description:

Vulcan’s Flame is a long, low plywood structure, the installation is the geometric interpretation of a flame, a curving sculpture of deforming polyhedral that slowly transform from a cube to a rhombic dodecahedron. The sculpture is created from 55 plywood polyhedra constructed from hand cut plywood boards and secured with cable ties. Internally each shape is painted using natural, organic paints, as the shapes change their internal colour alters from yellow to red. Coloured acetate panels in the uppermost faces of each shape will mirror the shapes internal hue, these panels will allow sunlight through during the day casting beautiful coloured shadows on the desert floor. At night the sculpture will be lit internally with fluctuating spot lights, this will create the illusion of flickering movement. The acetate panels will be secured with nails.

Construction Sequence

The structure sits on a base of 23 plywood shapes, secured to the ground with rebar stakes. The sculpture is very stable as the base is the widest section, the rest of the sculpture tapers away towards the top. Each new shape rest on the 4 corners of the shapes below, bolted through the vertices and then secured with rope. The final and highest rhombic dodecahedron is stabilised with a steel column. The highest point on the entire structure is just over 11 feet above ground level and consists of 4 stacked shapes. A full sized version of one of the shapes has already been constructed and load tested confirming that it can support human weight, all of the cable ties securing the structure will be meticulously rubbed down to ensure they are not sharp.

The sculpture curves in a gentle arc – creating a central area of shelter from the wind and sun. At ground level Burners can crawl inside the structure and rest in it’s shady, tinted interior.


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Inspired by previous research of pyritohedrons, these structures are an addition to a series of other models based on polyhedral deformation. Previous models have experimented with density, altering colour and infill panels.

Previous Models

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Models of The Wind Anemones

The Wind Anemones are The Playa’s walking, floating sea creatures. While the seas animals survive and are transported by the waters currents – these wind animals live and move using the energy provided by air. They are living, interactive and mobile – huge, rolling, climbing frames.

The Anemones are lively creature, light and agile they moves ceaselessly, desperate to escape their tethers. The creatures are ethereal, elegant and imposing. During the day they want only to play with the other inhabitants of The Playa, encouraging them to climb and view them.

Although large, the anemones are lightweight and strong – their wide spanning arms signal to all who pass them while their rustling sails propel them ceaselessly. When night falls the Wind Anemones become more subdued – their gently glowing hands beckon to the burners and their arm-top lights echo the noises produced on The Playa. These animals are living beings, both climbing frames and beacons they long to inspire, interact with and inhabit The Playa.

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Daytime render of The Wind Anemones

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Nightime render of The Wind Anemones

Physical Description:

The Wind Anemone’s are the sea creatures of The Playa. Instead of moving and feeding with the seas currents and tides The Wind Anemones are a constructed representation of desert creatures. In the vast, arid, wilderness they are the only being that can survive, powered only by the winds energy.

Structurally the Anemones are super-lightweight bamboo sculptures allowing them to dance and move in the deserts unforgiving climate whilst being safe for people to climb and interact with. Each Anemone has 48 identical bamboo arms each capped with a painted polystyrene hand, glowing LED bulb and sail.

The fabric sails are both the energy harvesting component of the creatures and a reflection of the silk road that the festival represents. The many repeated elements of each Anemone means that they are cheap to build and easy to assemble. The tough, light limbs are resilient extremities; both mast and arm. While the sails create movement and foot holds for climbing.

Each Anemone is tether securely to a post again reflecting the living nature of the creatures and ensuring that they never role too far from their home. These tethers are strung with LED lights to reflect the lights of the Anemone’s and to signal the location of each tether to ensure safety at night.

The LEDs on the Anemone’s arms and tethers will be programmed to react to the sounds of The Playa, making the Anemone’s both react with and reflect the activity occurring around them.

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Construction of the Wind Anemone

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Construction Axo of The Wind Anemone