Four years ago, the Land Art Generator Initiative co-founders visited Fly Ranch for a weekend campout. The campout sparked an idea and relationships that brought together LAGI, Fly Ranch, and Burning Man Project. Two years later, the Land Art Generator Initiative and Burning Man Project partnered to hold a multi-disciplinary design challenge—LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch—to create the foundational infrastructure for that beautiful remote landscape. The LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch Design Brief invited interdisciplinary teams of artists, architects, landscape architects, engineers, and scientists to propose works of art in the landscape that, in addition to their beauty and the transformational experiences they provide, also function to generate infrastructural contributions under one or more of the following five systems: power, water, food, shelter, and the regeneration of waste streams.

LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch
The SEED team celebrates their second successful prototyping project at Fly Ranch along with a community of volunteers and other artist teams. The result is a protected food forest and community gathering space constructed entirely from material found on site. Photo by Melissa Cliver.
SEED symbiotic coevolution by Samantha Katz, Woody Nitibhon, Henry O’Donnell, Samantha Katz, Lola Lafia, Eric Baczuk, John Hilmes, Max Schwitalla, and Colin O’Donnell uses solar photovoltaic, geothermal heat, passive cooling, composting, greenhouses, aquaponics, biodigesters, and greywater recycling to contribute climate controlled shelter, exhibit and event spaces, soil nutrients, and sustainable agricultural products. A submission to LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch. You can follow the progress at the project’s Instagram page.

Maps & Overview

The top ten teams were given honoraria grants from Burning Man Project to build a functional prototype. Beginning last year and continuing over the next few years, the teams will explore the feasibility of their proposals and adapt their artistic concepts based on their experiences of the site. As prototyping begins, the layout of this massive landscape for regenerative art is coming together through close coordination between the teams, Fly Ranch volunteers, and LAGI 2020 technical advisors and jurors.

The top map above is from the design guidelines that teams relied on when they made their proposals. Below that is a project maps that show where each team has placed their project as of one year ago. Since then, through conversations, site visits, and research some teams have shifted their desired placement. For the next year and a half, teams will explore and test prototypes. As with other aspects of Fly Ranch, this will be an emergent and collaborative process. The Fly Ranch team will work with LAGI teams, advisors, regulators, and other partners to explore the best approaches for permits, zoning, and water use.

The Source, LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch
The Source team—Mateusz Góra and Agata Gryszkiewicz (Tamaga Studio)—used local earth sourced around Fly Ranch to test the rammed earth construction technique they will use to build their regenerative artwork at Fly Ranch. They achieved the structural performance and the color striations they were looking for.
The Source by Mateusz Góra and Agata Gryszkiewicz (Tamaga Studio) uses solar photovoltaic, battery energy storage, water harvesting and cistern, rammed-earth thermal mass, fruit trees, fruit walls, and composting to contribute 250 kg of food per year, 2.2 MWh of electricity per year, 9,000 liters of water per year, habitat enhancement, environmental education venue, and soil replenishment. A submission to LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch. You can follow their progress on the Tamaga Studio Instagram page.

Fly Ranch LAGI Campout

During the last couple weeks of May, 2022, Fly Ranch hosted the latest LAGI prototyping camp in the beautifully unique landscape of Northern Nevada. The weather was great (much cooler than last July’s prototyping camp) and the skies were clear most days until the rains came quite dramatically on the final weekend. After experiences with smoke, wildfires, heat waves, and other climate emergency related issues, Fly Ranch has chosen to primarily focus on May as a viable time to gather.

Newly planted willow trees at Ripple.
Ripple by Matthew Lagomarsino, William Jacob Mast, Israel Orellana, Pierre-Yves Bertholet, Xiaojin Ren, Bas Kools, Scherwyn Udwadia, Edgar Oscar Ruiz, and Melika Tabrizi uses passive energy systems including electrochromic glass, bio-ceramic domes (Geoship), seed bank, solar photovoltaic, cistern and drip irrigation, composting toilets, and native restoration plants to contribute shelter, food, medicinal herbs and teas, habitat enhancement, water harvesting, 36 MWh of electricity per year, and 40,000 liters of harvested water per year. A submission to LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch. Follow the project on their website.

Not all of the top ten teams were able to make it but the teams that were represented included SEED symbiotic coevolution, Ripple, The Source, Coyote Mountain, The Loop, Mountains of Water, Solar Mountain, along with shortlisted teams Made from Dust, and Starship.

LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch
The site of The Loop at Fly Ranch as seen from the above.
The Loop – How pee and poo creates a Regeneration Service Station by Mathias Gullbrandson, Anna Johansson, Per Dahlgren, Julia Andersson, and Olle Bjerkås uses dehydration toilets, handwashing station, straw bale construction, solar photovoltaic, natural water filtration, hydroponic greenhouse, composting, and rainwater harvesting to contribute 1.5 million liters of irrigation water per year, fertilizer, fruit trees, and vegetables. A submission to LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch.

In between soaking trips in the hot springs, delicious meals prepared by the Flying Monkeys, and nature walks organized by the incredibly knowledgeable Fly Ranch Volunteer Coordinator Erika Wesnousky, Friends of the Black Rock High Rock, and other Fly Ranch Guardians

Cob bricks being formed at the site of the SEED project at Fly Ranch.

LAGI Project Progress Beyond Fly Ranch

It was a delight to see the LAGI 2020 teams helping each other out, sharing information and lessons learned. Long-time residents of Gerlach offered guidance to those less familiar with the terrain and climate of Northern Nevada. Field trips off into the adjacent foothills of the Granite Range and the surrounding dry lake beds provided inspiration, natural beauty, and a connection to the 15,000 year history of the place. Fly Ranch is on occupied Numu (Northern Paiute) and Newe (Western Shoshone) land. At least four distinct Numu tribes have direct ties to the area. There is more we can learn and do to support Indigenous peoples, address settler colonialism within our culture, and support direct action.

Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe
The golden shovel breaks ground at the new Pyramid Lake Museum ethnobotanical garden.

The Ripple team spent a few days planting an ethnobotanical garden and installing an irrigation system at the invitation of and in collaboration with the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe at the Pyramid Lake Museum. If you happen to be driving up Rt 447 in Nevada, stop by and learn about nutritional and medicinal uses of the native plant species. Watch this video of the event to learn more.

In the Architecture Isn’t Just for Humans Anymore exhibition at the Wiesner Student Art Gallery, at MIT from March 31 – April 29, 2022, the Lodgers artist team, Zhicheng Xu and Mengqi Moon He demonstrated the construction techniques that will be employed in their installation at Fly Ranch.
Lodgers: Serendipity in the Fly Ranch Wilderness by Zhicheng Xu and Mengqi Moon brings together composting toilets, reclaimed timber waste, traditional thatching methods using local materials, computational script-generated parametric design, and native species shelters to provide an environmental education venue, soil replenishment, sustainable waste management, and habitat enrichment for Fly Ranch. A submission to LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch.

The Lodgers team was not able to make it out to Nevada, but they recently put together an exhibition, “Architecture Isn’t Just for Humans Anymore,” at the MIT Wiesner Student Art Gallery highlighting their top-ranked LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch design proposal and demonstrating some full-scale prototypes of their construction methods.

LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch
The site of SEED as seen from above during excavation.

For more information about the LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch artworks, see the website where you’ll find the history and aspirations of the project in text and video along with the design guidelines and the supplemental materials about the site that were provided to the design teams. You can jump right to the shortlisted proposals here.

Made from Dust, LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch
Luis Philippsen, the artist behind Made from Dust, a LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch shortlisted project, talks about how his wood ash bricks naturally absorb carbon from the atmosphere over their life cycle. Photo by Melissa Cliver.

LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch Book

You can also pick up a copy of “Land Art of the 21st Century” which goes into more detail about the importance of the LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch project in the context of climate change, the circular economy, and the future sustainability of Burning Man Project. For a summary of the book, see a review in The Art Newspaper, which concluded:

Hopefully, Land Art of the 21st Century will inspire action on the climate and ecological emergencies worldwide. The methodologies and design philosophies employed by real-world regenerative structures can be copied. But the real value of these land art installations will be that they embody collective, sustainable and inclusive principles. It is through the creation of new ways of organising our societies that we will discover the wisdom to live together in harmony with our home planet.

LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch
While experiencing the future site of The Loop installation, Mercedes Martinez, Burning Man Project Board Member, holds up an image of Solar Mountain, which will be located nearby.

Photo Gallery

Below are some more photographs from the week’s events and a few aerial videos that will give you a feel for the scale of the site. We’re looking forward to the next time we can get back to Fly Ranch learning from these incredible teams and get our hands dirty again helping to build these important works of regenerative land art for the 21st century!

Newly planted willow trees at Ripple.
LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch
A sunrise gathering at the Labyrinth by Crimson Rose and Will Roger.
LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch
LAGI Co-Director, Robert Ferry, tends to the pink flamingoes. While flamingoes are not a local bird species, their plastic lawn ornament cousins can often be found in Nevada gardens. These fellows seem to be waiting around for the fairy shrimp to come alive.
The perimeter of the future installation, The Source is plotted in the landscape with small rammed earth “totems” that help to sketch the footprint of the project and grasp its final scale. Photo courtesy of Mateusz Góra and Agata Gryszkiewicz.
The perimeter of the future installation, The Source is plotted in the landscape with small rammed earth “totems” that help to sketch the footprint of the project and grasp its final scale. Photo courtesy of Mateusz Góra and Agata Gryszkiewicz.
Ripple, LAGI 2020 Fly Ranch
The Ripple team celebrates the successful irrigation of the newly planted willows, a species endemic to Northern Nevada, that will provide wind protection for the project. Photo by Melissa Cliver.
The site of SEED as seen from above during excavation.

Flying over the future site of Solar Mountain

Solar Mountain by Nuru Karim, Aditya Jain, Divya Rastogi, and Anuj Modi uses solar photovoltaic, and recycled plywood and aluminum to contribute 300 MWh of electricity per year and interactive spaces for play and exercise. Read more about the project in this post at Interesting Engineering.

This high elevation fly over shows the location of a few of the projects that have established their locations at this part of the site. Shortly after this part of the video, the wind picked up and crashed the drone! We found it though and it’s in good shape.

Flying over the site of The Loop