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UMD Team One of 10 Selected to Build ‘Eco Restoration Base’ on Burning Man Property

By Samantha Watters

A team of University of Maryland students and recent alums is one of 10 groups worldwide selected in a design competition centered on a remote property owned by the nonfprofit that stages the annual Burning Man festival, where the Terps plan to build a self-sustaining “eco-restoration base.”

In the next step of the 2020 Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) International Design Challenge, the team will work this summer on the Fly Ranch in the Nevada desert, a 3,800-acre property recently acquired by the Burning Man Project that’s described as an “off-grid outpost” of the yearly communitarian gathering in the Western U.S. These will be the first permanent structures on the site, a protected ecosystem with many maintenance and restoration challenges.

The UMD entry, “Ripple,” will be a flexible space for humans to regenerate native plant diversity and ecology of the Great Basin region, paying homage to the land and the indigenous tribes who once lived there and embodying Burning Man values of creativity, inclusiveness and sustainability.

“Ripple is like a ranger base for ecological restoration,” said (William) Jacob Mast ’20, the team co-lead (and one of several environmental science and technology grads on the team). “We wanted to create a tool that enabled people to perform environmental restoration on the Fly Ranch. The idea is that you can live in this dome, harvest water from the cisterns, grow the food you need from the surrounding gardens, and all of the plants selected are of significance for their various uses to local Native American cultures and restoration benefits.”

Along with co-lead Matt Lagomarsino ‘18, the team also features current landscape architecture graduate student Xiaojin Ren ‘19, Israel Orellana ’22 and Melika Tabrizi ‘20. Collaborators from outside the university include Pierre-Yves Bertholet, who designed the solar energy system, Scherwyn Udwadia, who helped visualize the work, and Bas Kools, who co-founded Geoship SPC and designed the dome at the design’s center.

The Ripple design, chosen from more than 180 submissions from over 80 countries, includes two old-school technologies designed to spread knowledge as well as native greenery: a seed bank and a library. Plant selection prioritized native species with restorative properties to the landscape, flowering plants that can attract pollinators and wildlife, as well as plants with cultural significance to local native tribes.

Check out the team’s video for an overview of the project. For updates, or to get involved in fundraising for, promoting or building Ripple, contact the team at its website.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Strategic Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.