Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Zonohedral Cathedral

Zonotopia and the Quasicrystalline Conjunction

The Zonotopia Crew 2013

It is with great pleasure and no small amount of surprise that I report a triumphant return from Black Rock City, Nevada - Burning Man 2013 - Cargo Cult, being our fifth consecutive year of building Zonotopia, a manifestation of Zonohedral Art and Architecture on the playa.

As anyone who has built large Art at Burning Man would agree doing it well and doing it right is no small feat.  This year our production schedule was compressed to a point in which it was at a late date questionable as to whether anything resembling our original proposal was at all feasible. The causes of this effect were plenty and while largely external ultimately rest upon the shoulders of the Artist - yours truly, who must channel the energies of people, self, resources and time in order to produce a viable product at the appointed hour. I fault no one who lost faith as the calendar days marched forward and the beginning of physical production was postponed again and again all while months dwindled into weeks and weeks into days.

A 5" tall 3-D print of the final design. This model proved to be a valuable reference on the playa.
Production began 26 days prior to departure. The three spiralohedral chambers were reduced to two. The mid-level deck which was to be 12' off the ground was brought down to playa level.

A skewed rhombic box.

All new construction systems were required to accomplish the spiralohedral design. This year instead of the rhombic panels being cut directly from sheet goods they were each individually constructed as a skewed hexahedral box. While more labor is required up front each panel is now stronger and lighter than it's single layer counterpart. In conjunction with CNC cutting, skilled table saw work was required to realized these components.

A hexahedral box with decorative panel, triangular vertical members
and base skirt parts meeting for the first time.

Awesome placement
After a 24 hour delay leaving San Francisco, followed by car troubles during our journey across the mountains to reach the desert we finally landed at our designated spot in Black Rock City and started building on the morning of Friday, August 23, 2013.

The beginning of our zonohedral floor
For years now I've wanted to tile a Zome floor with rhombs which are the orthogonal projection of the panels above. The 6 panels in the Quasicrystalline Conjunction Zome map to only 3 panels tiling the floor and each is a direct overhead projection of a panel above.

Floor and base skirt in place.
Once the floor tiles were all in place a spontaneous game of Zome Twister broke out.

Floor, skirt and base parts laid out.

Zonotopian Nettie putting the first panel in place.

And only 119 left to go.

The two DayStar Zomes are built nearby.

The assembly moves quickly and we are overhead in no time.

And the DayStars are done.

Reaching the tops of the first chamber.

Sunset on Friday our first build day.

Taking a break for dinner. Both chambers will be finished before
the end of the workday.
Morning of Day Two. The Chambers are complete. Now to connect them and head for the sky.
Vertical panels with beveled support beams are installed.

Pro-Tip: To look important at a job site, point at things.
Chris and Miloh wearing sensible headgear.
Master Zome Builder Megan Stevens.
Installing ground anchors.
Piece by piece and part by part the Quasicrystalline Zome rises.

Zonotopians Steph and Val hand cutting translucent panels for our lighting effects.

Zonotopians Patricia Humming Bee and Ana prepare lunch.

A welcome break with good food and good friends.

Val became quite adept at the pneumatic stapler.

We worked past midnight Saturday night until 3am Sunday morning. Finally all of the vertical walls were complete.

At the beginning of the Day Sunday only the spirallohedral top remains.
Sunday and the home stretch.
Rob and Megan
Around and around, like clock-work. Twelve panels per ring
except for the top in which there are six.

The Zonotopia job site early Sunday afternoon.

I take a break in the muggy heat of the day.
Little Birdy installs the LED strips which will bring the panels to life at night.
Hoodie and I look towards our Ultimate Destination.
More pointing at things.
Zonotopians Garrett and Chris wiring our lighting effects.
Final painting is happening.

Patricia Humming Bee and Chris K. Palmer's art sculpture,
The Zomphalo is prepared for installation.

Inside each of the three chambers of the Zomphalo are 3-D printed organic, hive-like structures which will be lit from within. You can also see real bees trapped in amber jewels surrounding the honeycomb portals.
The excitement is growing as everyone is in the zone, working hard to make great progress during our final hours before Burning Man starts.

At last only 2 rows and 18 panels to go. The scissor lift won't fit and assembly is designed to happen from the inside. The solution is going to have to be a ladder ratchet strapped atop braced scaffolding.

Near sunset I check the ease of exterior climb-ability
before the translucent windows were inserted.

And meanwhile, across the playa The original Zonotopia Zome is assembled for the 10th time as an Esplanade Art Piece holding court for our good friends at Bubbles and Bass.

In the darkness, laptop aglow, Miloh hacks into the twelfth dimension and brings the Three Hearts of the Zomphalo to life.

Darkness fell quickly as Hoodie and I began the final push.
There is no small amount of anxiety as I went up. 
It was undeniably precarious, yet I felt solid 100%
of the time and never had even a single bobble.
I'm pretty happy about those 10 years of hard Trad climbing
in Yosemite I have under my belt.
Around and around and panel by panel the opening closed above me.
For two and one half hours I didn't come down.
I was starting to get tired but in my hands was the Last Panel at last.

Near the end it was eerily quiet and I looked down to see an audience of over 30 people all sitting and laying back watching my high wire circus act.
And I popped it in.

All things considered everything lined up very well.
Nevertheless it took every trick up my sleeve to get the last edges to line up perfectly along with all the patience, perseverance, tenacity and stamina I had in me.

And at midnight Sunday we are done!
This is to my knowledge the first Spirallohedral pavilion ever constructed.

The Zomphalo, Sacred Altar for the Bees is installed adding
a beautiful ambient buzzing and music to the space.  The Zomphalo illustrates the connection between the organic, living world of food and it's interdependence and inter-connectivity along with the crystalline and geometric aspects of nature; for bee honey comb cells are in fact Zomes.

And at 12:30am Monday morning we greet  the first of thousands of beautiful guests. Zonotopia and the Quasicrystalline Conjunction is officially open! Let the week of magic begin!

There's much, much more to be said and shown
and many expressions of gratitude and credit to be written.
Coming here within another day to two - rb

zome mani padme zome
-Rob Bell


  1. Hi, Zomad(s)! I don't know if I can adequately describe how much I adore the Quasicrystalline Conjunction. This year was my first time on the playa, and I ran across it by happenstance early in the week, on my way out to the Temple. QC was empty, and the quiet and shade made it a great place to chill out and think. Later in the week, on Friday night, I returned with my campmates to do a Japanese tea ceremony for them inside the Quasicrystalline Conjunction, and I loved it as a setting for that, too. Are you thinking of building it again at Building Man 2014? If so, would you have any interest in working with me to have it be a setting for scheduled tea ceremonies, open to anyone? Either way, reading this post makes me appreciate the tremendous effort that went into constructing it. Thank you for so much for designing and making it - QC and the rest of Zonotopia are magical places!

  2. I wasn't there, but I keep spending HOURS looking at these photos. Rob, KUDOS. Absolutely breath-holdingly beautiful forms. They are spontaneous emissions of the brilliance of the universe you're channeling—that's the phrase that comes to mind! And your hand construction, your teamwork, the fanciful spirit of curlicue and color, the obvious craftsmanship on many levels, the reverence of space... oh my.

    Thanks for continuing to bless us all with your work to share your brilliant vision of the twisting, growing, ever-new, ever-the-same, polar zonohedra form. I just can't get enough.


  3. Thank you for the kind comments everyone.

    Katie, yes tea in the Zomes next year sounds wonderful.

    And Gay, Thank you. The best is yet to come. :-)


  4. Qui me donne un lift !! :) De toute BO-T .