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Adam Holloway Architects

Magic Circle

A pavilion designed for the Burning Man Festival in Nevada, featuring a novel reciprocal tension structure.


The project takes the form of a circular pavilion, assembled from sets of CNC-cut plywood ribs held in tension with a steel cable in a reciprocating, interlocked geometry.  Spacers between the ribs maintain the tension in the structure and also provide a handrail to assist with climbing. The ribs are interlocked in sets of three and twisted to create a ‘strange loop’.  This form is neither horizontal like a network, nor vertical like a hierarchy, but is heterarchichal, characterized by a cycle of linked, interdependent levels with no ultimate upwards or downwards advancement.

The sweeping edges of the form invite participants to enter and explore the structure, and the heterarchichal shape means that, moving either upwards or downwards through the levels of the structure, they unexpectedly find that they return to their original starting point.   A heterarchy is a socio-economic idea, describing a society characterized by mutual return and collective accountability.

The pavilion’s circular, reciprocal form, where each piece supports and is supported by another, is representative of this socio-economic model.  This balance of forces maintains a state of high physical energy in the piece.  As users explore the piece, it is also infused with their creative energy, through exploration, interaction and play.  A cycle emerges whereby the energy of the piece and the energy of the users become increasingly confluent.

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