Hang the Branches from Above

Starting with the idea I had with making canopies—by hanging thinner branches from above rather than supporting from below—I came up with a way to make a 3D test of that idea. I started by making guard-rail posts around the perimeter of the elevated trunks that people walk on. Working upward, many of the posts would have a rope to anchor the bottom of a branch. On the lower elevated level, the tips of the branches would have a rope tied to another branch which would have holes to hang leaves with messages; the upper level would only have the main branches to hang leaves. The tips of all these branches would be anchored from above with ropes to the next level up.

This way, the branches will sway with the wind with a great deal of flexibility. Further, for any that break, the rope or rigid branch can both be replaced on the Playa. If the branches had been rigidly attached from below, flexing of the branches would be difficult to achieve, and they would be prone to permanent breakage.

For now, I only rendered the first set of branches, omitting the forks on the lower elevated level. I also omitted any anchors, simply placing the branches how I would like them to appear.

3D-render with small branches and guard rail posts.

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A Simple 3D Canopy Demonstration

I decided to try splitting the second-story branches for better coverage. The idea is to use ropes from the first level branches on upward, tangled to tension, to emulate the finer branches that would hold the leaves.

3D-render with second-tier branches split.

Just to get an idea of what the canopy might look like, I fiddled around with making 4"x6" (100mm x 150mm) rectangular "leaves"—about the size I could expect from using the slats from palettes. I just applied them in a hemispherical dome. I started with a modest number that could be easily realized—some 1,900 leaves.

3D render with a uniform half-dome of 1,900 rectangular "leaves."

I thought I'd go a little crazy and see how dense the shadow would get if I pushed it to 11,000 leaves. I would guess this would be a very optimistic goal to achieve, but not complete out of reach.

3D render with a uniform half-dome of 11,000 rectangular "leaves."

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First 3D Render

After laboring over Blender for some time, I finally created a model of the Temple. It's a bit rough and the wood grain appearance is way over-scale, but it's at least a start. I'm also trying to figure out the best way to make it look like it's on the Playa … at least a little.

Ground level view.
Ground level view.
Overhead view.
Overhead view.

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Second Small Model

Wood model from sticks and 2x4s.
Wood model from sticks and 2x4s.

I was reinvigorated to work on the temple again. I want to make a structure that is so appealing (visually, emotionally, and otherwise) that nobody will want to burn it. And I want to integrate the community so they are fully invested in the project.

I drew some more sketches, trying to focus on the appearance of the end product rather than being fixated on the ability to construct it. I started in on making a model again. I took a couple 2×4's and hot-glued them together for a "trunk". Then I needed something to make branches. I was looking for inspiration outdoors when I decided to use some sticks from my magnolia tree. I cut them and glued them on then added bamboo skewers as branches and small scraps of paper as the "leaves". For some kind of scale, I added Vince.

Rough composite image on-Playa.
Rough composite image with the Playa.

I basically built 1/4 of the tree and took some test photos against a colored backdrop. I had four photos, each with the model rotated 90 degrees—all set up with the same camera settings on a tripod. Then I pulled it into Gimp, did a rough removal of the colored background and composited the four rotations on top of one another to create a pseudo-representation of a full model. I added a photo of the Playa from Vittorio Carli's artinterviews.com to make it look like it was at Burning Man.

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First Temple Model

Small model of one branch.
Small model of one branch.

I have been working on some scale drawings in 2-dimensional CAD software and came up with a way to build the main branches. There would be four branches—one for each compass direction—and all of them would be similarly constructed. Alone, each would fall outward, so they would need to be tied to the mirrored pair to balance it.

Dismantled segments of single branch.
Dismantled segments of single branch.

The branches would be built in segments that could be prefabricated and brought to the Playa for final assembly. The assembly could be done by hand, using only simple pulleys and winches to lift the branches. By working in mirrored teams, the branches would counterbalance one another. As they are winched off the ground, the next segment could be attached, continuing in this way until they are fully hoisted into position.

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Motivations and Thoughts

I decided I needed to figure out my motivations. I wanted to see it happen, for one: I wanted to see it on the Playa at Burning Man, and see how people added their messages, and how the leaves formed, and how the lighting would transition through seasons at night, and how it would burn.

I also wanted to be able to feign humility about it, to put a positive spin on it: I'm adept at being not noticed, or at least not approached. So I want to be able to be near people who want to shower compliments and gratitude, but to do so with anonymity. It's kind of a funny motivation, but it's ultimately about trying to control having power: having the power to decide whether I accept comments like that. It's like I want some of the benefits of fame, but I want to avoid its pitfalls. I fully believe that power over other people is corruption: not that power corrupts, but that it is corruption itself. It definitely gets me into trouble because what I do, and why people are impressed with me are inexorably linked to why they like me. Wish as I might, there is no such thing as being liked for "who you are" separate from "what you do".

So I also find it frustrating to receive compliments for things I've done. If you want to see it firsthand, you can approach me after this and try it. I'll be polite but start falling down the existential rabbit hole: what am I? what have I done? everything is derivative, so what do I add? if all this that I have made is not just me, but a series of events and tremendous help from others, so what part is me?

I figure I will meet some very kind and well-meaning sadists today.

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