Burning Man festival

Burning Man founder Larry Harvey dies aged 70

Larry Harvey, the man who founded Burning Man festival, has passed away after suffering a stroke.

Harvey, 70, died in San Francisco on Saturday 28 April, after failing to recover from a "massive stroke" earlier this month.

"Burning Man culture has lost a great leader and an inspiring mind," said festival CEO Marian Goodell, who revealed the news in a blog post on the Burning Man website.

"He adeptly interpreted the manifestation of what became a movement," she said. "I have lost a dear friend who I’ve known, loved, and worked beside for nearly 22 years."

Larry Harvey
Larry Harvey established Burning Man in 1986

Harvey established Burning Man in 1986. Initially it was a small gathering on San Francisco's Baker Beach. But it later moved to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, where it evolved into a huge temporary settlement, called Black Rock City.

The festival now attracts 70,000 visitors for one week every year, and its community is responsible for building an array of elaborate structures.

These are laid out on a horseshoe-shaped grid system that Harvey developed with help from late architect and urban designer Rod Garrett. The layout surrounds the "burning man" – a giant effigy that is set alight at the climax of the festival.

In an interview with Dezeen in 2014, Harvey described his pride at creating a car-free festival in a remote and inhospitable landscape.

He said the aim was to "induce social interactions that would in turn generate a sense of community and a culture".

Harvey grew up on a farm outside Portland, Oregon. He had no college education, but had a keen interest in history, philosophy and psychology, according to close friend Stuart Mangrum.

Heavily influenced by The Gift, a book by American scholar Lewis Hyde, Harvey's philosophy for Burning Man centred around the celebration of culture and moral values. These were laid out in the text 10 Principles of Burning Man, written in 2004.

The Burning Man Temple by Marisha Farnsworth
The most recent Burning Man centred around a temple designed by artist Marisha Farnsworth

"Larry was never one for labels. He didn't fit a mould; he broke it with the way he lived his life. He was 100 per cent authentic to his core," said Goodell.

"For all of us who knew or worked with him, he was a landscape gardener, a philosopher, a visionary, a wit, a writer, an inspiration, an instigator, a mentor, and at one point a taxi driver and a bike messenger," she continued.

"He was always a passionate advocate for our culture and principles that emanate from the Burning Man experience in the Black Rock Desert."

Burning Man now hosts 85 regional events across six continents. Some of the impressive temporary structures it has spawned are currently on show in an exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC.

Last year's event centred around a temple designed by artist Marisha Farnsworth.