Altared Space: The Backstory

In a previous post, I mentioned that Altared Space was a combination of LED project, burnable art piece, and wedding venue. Here’s the story of how it came to be.

My wife and I met at Burning Man in 2013 while working together on a large burnable art piece that one of our mutual friends had designed. That particular trip to the desert was fraught with a lot of challenges: our Uhaul broke down in the desert between Beatty and Goldfield, I tore my ACL in the parking lot of a hotel in Reno, the project manager chose to go on a spa trip instead of be around to do things like pay for the food for 25 people working on the piece on-site, and our freezer storing said food broke down. And all of that was before we even got there.

Despite all this, we had an awesome time, connected at a deep and fundamental level, and have been together ever since. So the next year, we decide to bring another project to the desert to celebrate our one year anniversary.

Big mistake. The original project we were going to take was intended to be a burnable art piece in the form of a giant Scottish terrier. Turns out, the artist had never designed anything before, and when we told him of the changes that needed to be made in order for us to bring something to the desert that: A) wouldn’t kill anyone, B) not cost a fortune in materials, and C) be something that you could reasonable expect to build in several months and assemble on-site in a week, he balked, refused to accept any design changes, and then actually threatened us with legal action if we did anything to/with his intellectual property.

Naturally, working on a project that is potentially legally encumbered is a non-starter, so we went with a different artist. Said artist (I love her to death but definitely didn’t have her act together) never managed to give us actual build plans. So I spent the summer learning CAD on the fly, designing the piece as we were building it with a minimal staff in a stuffy warehouse with no AC in the middle of a Texas summer. And thus Shrine of the Crossroads was born.

Did I mention the project manager? Oh lordy. This woman was a good friend for a long time, but apparently our project was her audition for getting a job with Burning Man. Let’s just say that she went a little crazy, treated the build crew like slaves, and didn’t provide much in the way of support for the project. I nearly had a nervous breakdown the week we were supposed to load out and leave. Thanks to some amazing friends who stepped in at the last minute to help us salvage the project, we managed to finish the build, get the thing loaded up, and make it to the playa with minimal stress.

On-site was more of the same. Our PM was slowly losing her mind, berated us daily, and tried to control our every move throughout the event. All in some kind of misguided effort to bolster her reputation in order to get a full-time paying gig with the org. Despite this, we still managed to have a bit of fun, and long story short, I proposed to my wife on the top of our project.

Needless to say, we were a bit burned out when we got home, so we took the next year off.

For 2016, we decided to go, get married in Vegas on the way there, and do the actual wedding ceremony on site (actually getting married at Burning Man is a bit of a hassle). Early on we decided that we wanted to build our wedding venue, get married in it, and then burn it down. So we set about making the absolute most pain free build we could envision. Hence Altared Space was born.

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