Less than two weeks to go until the deadline for submissions for concept designs for the 2016 Burning Seed Temple and we are HELLA excited to see what you folks come up with!
Since the earliest days of Seed we’ve had some truly amazing Temple Burns - from Rob and Kursty’s green bamboo at the original Bellingen Seed (2010) and then at Matong with Myke McQuaid’s Temple of Time (2012) and Spirit Temple (2013), Elba Garcia-Clark’s Labyrinth (2014) and Brad Ogden’s Tower of Babel (2015).
Rusty, Seed’s beloved Temple and Effigy co-ordinator, has supported burning and construction of Seed's Temple and Effigy structures from the beginning and Rusty also plays a key role in the ARTery and in the new Fire Art Response Team (FART).
“The first year in Bellingen we knew the green bamboo was going to be hard to burn, and the large embers tend to fly quite a distance," says Rusty. "That’s not such a big deal with a small group of people but we saw the same thing happen with last year’s Effigy - so bamboo is now banned for all the big burns at Seed,” he says.
Every year, each designer/builder/artist/architect has had new and fresh challenges to face - from finding the inspiration for their design, to budgeting, finding enough crew, accessing/learning the skills to create the structure, dealing with the elements during the build and ensuring a safe and successful - and awe inspiring! - Burn that Leaves-No-Trace.
Myke McQuaid says in the early days at Matong, with the budgets very tight, the size and scale of the Temple Burn was more modest than we can expect now.
“I did the temple in 2012 and 2013," says Myke. "Both years the wood came from a local neighbor near Matong and was made from cyprus. The first year was roughly 76 sticks of wood of various sizes and a few sheets of plywood for gussets.
“My strategy was always 4 builders in 4 days or it's probably too large a project. That was early days though and the budget was tiny so it fit. Nowadays you need lots more crew and lots more time.
“Whatever the budget, make sure you’re clear upfront on the deal with the organisers - in terms of supply of power/fuel/lights/food/security/site prep/ what happens during the burn and after. Also expect 50% of your volunteers to go AWOL!”
Myke's 2012 'Temple of Time'
Elba's 'Labyrinth' design from 2014
Myke was working with budgets of just under $950 in 2012 and around $1300 in 2012/13 while Brad Ogden’s Temple of Babel came in (on budget) at $15k last year. As the Temple has evolved so has the time/crew/material needed to build it.
“Last year we had 6-8 crew at any given stage for prefabrication, 8-10 crew on-site (15 involved over the course of the project) and the whole thing took approximately 120 hours on build/prefab + 20 odd hours of designing,” says Brad.
“In terms of wood and other materials we used 783 linear meters of 100x50, 40.8 linear meters of 150x50, a 6 metre 300x300 (that was shaped down into a 260mm hexagon)... there was about 1500 batton screws (492 in the 6 supporting legs alone), a few fistfuls of nails and a few star pickets.
“In terms of the build, pre-fabrication can take a lot of the stress of building on-site out of the equation but be careful when pre-fabbing with rough sawn timber... shrinkage is real.”
Expect the unexpected
One rule of thumb that both Brad and Myke say all designers/builders need to consider…. expected the unexpected and be prepared to make compromises on site.
“From the very earliest phase you need to think about how this thing will Burn,” says Brad. “For instance, in hindsight, we should have put a little more work into weakening the central post. It should have been obvious that once one of the sides was gone it would have fallen over. I expected it to stay upright a little longer than it did.
“Also, no-one anticipated the amount of embers being thrown off by the thin ply skin. We normally work with thicker ply, but we had to compromise getting the laser cutting quote down to an acceptable level.”
“You have to think of the end at the beginning,” says Myke. “Like, how is this thing going to burn? Density is good - it allows for a good heat build up. In 2012 we had trouble getting it lit fully because it was so open but in 2013 - now that was the burn I was looking for!"
Safety is of course the most critical consideration for any Temple builder/burner.
“In 2015 we introduced the Fire Art Response Team to tighten up our safety procedures and to facilitate smoother burning in and around the Paddock, particularly at the main Burns,” says Rusty.
“I like the Burns when the crowd has to move back more because of the heat of the fire - they get to feel the power of the Burn and this only adds to the experience and to the understanding and respect for fire and what we do for a big Burn like the Temple.
“Weakening - or making cuts in the timber to ensure a smooth Burn - is a very important consideration with the generally thick timber of the main support structure. You have a big safety circle with the Temple Burn for most of the day before you burn, so you can be bold with the weakening cuts and with your liquid and solid fuel loading.”
Learn from the Burn
“It’s always great to learn something new,” says Myke. “I’m a mechanical engineer, a veteran burner, handy with tools but in 2012 when we had 90km winds on-site and the Temple started listing a guy came over to help me and taught me a trick I hadn’t known before to stables it.”
Brad says design and build skills are important but not everything.
“I’ve got basic carpentry skills, I’m self-taught on Sketch-Up, I have a rudimentary understanding of engineering/physics and some project management experience - but you don’t need to know everything - there are heaps of people involved who are ready to offer help and advice.
“I will say this though - if my experience of the Temple build last year taught me anything, it's that if you turn around once, and do the Eagle rock... everything will be OK....”
Got an idea for a Temple design? - Get to it! - less than two weeks to go!!!
Brad's Tower of Babel Temple design from 2015