August 23rd, 2011 | Filed under News
Rod Garrett, 2010. Photo by John Curley.
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Rod Garrett, the long-time architect and designer of Black Rock City.
Since 1997, Rod has guided the Black Rock City urban design, overseeing its evolution from a functional plan to provide structure to a desert encampment of 10,000 to supporting a thriving metropolis of 50,000+, always with an eye towards form, function, elegance and the development of community. In addition to his urban planning role, Rod also designed Black Rock City’s major infrastructural elements, including the Center Camp Café, and every Man base since 1997.
Through his work over the years, Rod has made considerable contributions to the Burning Man community, for Rod’s particular genius was understanding the importance and power of design as it relates to social interaction and cultural development. Rod’s brilliance, passion and dedication to his craft will be sorely missed by the Burning Man organization.
Many of Rod’s writings about designing Black Rock City can be found in the Metropol Blog Series.
This year, the road encircling Black Rock City’s Center Camp will be named “Rod’s Road” in his honor.
[This post is part of the Metropol Blog Series.]
As Burning Man is, if nothing else, a crucible for radical and avante garde self-expression, it’s no wonder that the city’s functional and infrastructural elements are so often imbued with creative artistry as well. And when base necessity meets with artistic inspiration, banal functionality is elevated beyond its original purpose, taking on altogether new forms.
La Contessa Mutant Vehicle, 2005
Public transportation takes the form of the magnificent roving sculptures that are Mutant Vehicles. Personal transportation (bicycles) are transformed into rolling exhibitions of personal inventiveness. Illuminating the city at night with kerosene lanterns becomes a deeply-ritualized activity. The city itself is a work of functional art, designed such that one can see the Man from every street corner. Even the street signs are meticulously hand-crafted to mirror the given year’s art theme.
In the following essay, originally published on the Burning Man website, Rod Garrett explains how the Man Base (the pedestal upon which the Man stands) evolved from basic functional need to an elevated work of interactive art.
The Man and the Plinth
Standing at the geometric apex of Black Rock City is the collective icon of The Man. This figure represents nothing expressed or explicable, yet is a physical and ethical guidepost for fifty thousand people during at least one week of the year.
The Man, 1993
In the beginning, the Man stood and was burned directly on the playa. Nearing the millennium, we began to see increasingly greater assemblies at the “Burn” – marking the end of the event. Concerned that the ever-larger assembly was blocking full view of the “Man” for many, we employed a stopgap measure of mounting the figure on stacked hay bales. However, as the pyre was consumed in flame, bits of charred straw were lifted, showering the open playa. This made our “Leave No Trace” policy quite problematic, so that practice ended.
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