Heartburst Lands at Burning Man 2023
Since first landing at Black Rock City, (OU) OFFICEUNTITLED co-founders Benjamin Anderson, Christian Robert, and Shawn Gehle, imagined sharing their love for the built environment, community, and artistic expression with the Burning Man community. Heartburst is that gift, offering those on the playa the invitation to pause, engage, and explore a more profound sense of connection with themselves and the world around them.
Sensitive to the environmental footprint of building temporary structures on the Playa, Heartburst playfully harnesses the healing power of light and sound through a bamboo structure framing views of the vast landscape of deep playa. The art spectacular encourages visitors to slow down, be present in their surroundings, and achieve a state of mindfulness. In addition to its sustainable nature, bamboo enhances the grounding experience of Heartburst, furthering human understanding of materiality in the built environment. The celebration of natural material offers a calming and centering effect, one which promotes a deeper connection to the natural world and a greater sense of stability. Its four heart-shaped entranceways and shared internal intersections embody the power of diversity and promote coming together.
“At its core, Heartburst is about radical inclusion. We wanted to make a space where people could gather on the playa, find respite, and discover a place that celebrates a grounding moment – both in the daytime and at night.” Shawn Gehle.
Heartburst will act as a physical reminder of the power of universal love and inclusivity and be an opportunity to welcome diversity and the unexpected. Through Heartburst, people are invited to explore a more profound sense of connection with themselves, others, and the world around them, fostering a more sustainable and harmonious relationship with nature and humankind.
“This is the purest example of creative expression that I have ever been part of.” said Benjamin Anderson. “The engagement and interaction from everyone on the playa was inspiring. To host four weddings and a proposal inside the structure the first day, was for me, the highest compliment we could have received.”
Heartburst’s commitment to sustainability at Burning Man is reflected in its use of bamboo, one of the most sustainable and fastest-growing materials available. By using bamboo in the construction of the installation, Heartburst advances Burning Man’s commitment to environmental responsibility and demonstrates the possibility of creating stunning spatial experiences without causing harm to the planet.
Working with SEAD Bamboo out of Malaysia, a leader in socially conscious, sustainable bamboo applications, the team verified the environmental impact of the structure. Using even the most conservative calculations, inclusive of the entire shipment of the bamboo from Malaysia to Los Angeles, the structure’s carbon sink is still negative -7.5 metric tons of CO2 footprint. This is equivalent to a US household carbon footprint for a year, making this sculpture beyond net zero construction and into a “net-negative” build.
In the US, bamboo has not been fully tested for commercial building. Having first conceived of using it for a next-generation fueling station in Malaysia, the founders at OU saw Heartburst as an opportunity to further explore the material’s potential first-hand.
“Bamboo is actually stronger than steel compared to its weight, and one of the fastest growing plants on earth, so we were curious to see how it could be utilized.” said Christian Robert, “When we connected with Lucas Loo and his company SEAD in 2017, we found a true partner in our process. He understood Heartburst was more than just a structure for us, that it represents our commitment to innovation and excitement in how we can further explore the use of bamboo in our work.”
Recognizing that the building industry must become more sustainable, Heartburst aims to bring more awareness and attention to bamboo as a building material, and its role in a more sustainable future. The structure will be reconfigured for an exhibition in late October at the RAM Gallery in Bakersfield, CA, as it seeks to find a permanent home with a collector or organization, giving a longer life to the structure and reducing its impact even further.