The ‘Ripple’ Effect

Terps to Build Sustainable Structures Near Burning Man Festival Site
By Sala Levin ’10 | Illustration courtesy of Fly Ranch

Out in the northwestern Nevada desert, amid the rare sights of geysers and pools on arid land untouched by roads, electrical grids or even the most tenuous cellular connection, a group of UMD alums, students and staff members will be building the area’s first permanent structures—with a connection to the land as the top priority.

The centerpiece of “Ripple,” as the team’s project is known, is a geodesic dome that collects and purifies water for surrounding rings of sustainable gardens, and also houses a seed bank and library to preserve native plant species and allow people to take seeds for free. Solar and wind energy both fuel the project.

It was one of the 10 winning proposals submitted to an international design challenge sponsored by two nonprofits: the Land Art Generator Initiative and the Burning Man Project. The two organizations own about 3,800 acres called the Fly Ranch, just west of the site of the annual Burning Man festival, known for its focus on self-sustainability, a gifting economy and some wild outfits.

The team behind Fly Ranch hopes to create an experimental sustainable community—part art installation, part eco-friendly habitations that both thrive off and replenish the land while building a sense of togetherness among guests.

Jacob Mast ’20 and Matt Lagomarsino ’18, who both studied environmental science at UMD, organized some 30 team members—including UMD students, alums and staff—to design and build it in Nevada this fall. “The best part about this has just been working with so many other talented and passionate people,” says Lagomarsino. “It’s a synergy, and soon it will be a synergy among us and the land and other organisms.”


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