Dezeen Magazine

Compass of the Ephemeral by Smallworks Press

Burning Man announces plans for Virtual Black Rock City amid pandemic

Burning Man has cancelled its Black Rock City event this year and revealed plans to host a virtual alternative due to the "painful reality of Covid-19".

The organisers of the annual festival announced on Friday 10 April that it will cancel the 2020 festival, which was set to take place in the Nevada desert from 30 August to 7 September.

"After much listening, discussion, and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision not to build Black Rock City in 2020," they said in a statement.

"Given the painful reality of Covid-19, one of the greatest global challenges of our lifetimes, we believe this is the right thing to do," they added. "Yes, we are heartbroken. We know you are too."

"It will likely be messy and awkward with mistakes"

In place of the traditional event, Burning Man will host an online festival called Virtual Black Rock City or VBRC, which will "lean into" the 2020 theme, The Multiverse.

"We are, however, going to build Black Rock City in The Multiverse," the organisers explained. "That's the theme for 2020 so we're going to lean into it."

"We're not sure how it's going to come out; it will likely be messy and awkward with mistakes," they continued. "It will also likely be engaging, connective, and fun."

The announcement comes just under three weeks after the festival organisers said they were waiting to see how the pandemic unfolds in the following months before changing these plans.

They have since decided that the gathering 80,000 in the temporary desert city was too dangerous.

Burning Man to enforce "belt-tightening measures"

"In 2020 we need human connection and immediacy more than ever," the organisers added. "But public health and the well-being of our participants, staff, and neighbours in Nevada are our highest priorities."

Refunds will be offered to those that have already purchased tickets for this year's event. The organisers have asked that those who are in the financial position to donate their ticket value or a portion to the event.

The organisers said that it will need to make "substantial staff layoffs, pay reductions, and other belt-tightening measures" in order to stay afloat. "This is going to be a tough year for us, as we know it will be for you, but we will get through it together," they added.

The virtual event will be ticketed and will allow up to 100,000 attendees.

Burning Man has already chosen its 2020 temple, which will form the centrepiece of the temporary Black Rock City. The design, created by Colorado architect Renzo Verbeck and artist Sylvia Adrienne Lisse, comprises an eight-pointed angular structure.

Architecture and design events are cancelled or postponed

A majority of other large-scale music events that were due to happen this summer have also changed plans because of the coronavirus crisis.

California's music festival Coachella, which was set to start last weekend, will now take place in October, while the UK's Glastonbury music festival is cancelled.

Major architecture and design events have also been affected. Milan's Salone del Mobile has been cancelled until 2021 and the Venice Architecture Biennale has been delayed from May until August.

This week, Dezeen will host Virtual Design Festival, the world's first online design festival, which will contain a rolling programme of online talks, lectures, movies, product launches.

The project will complement and support fairs and festivals around the world that have had to be postponed or cancelled, and provide a platform for design businesses, so they can, in turn, support their supply chains.

Photography is by Will Roger, as featured in Compass of the Ephemeral: Aerial Photography of Black Rock City through the Lens of Will Roger.