On the playa, the leader of this build is known as “Haggis,” but in his daily life, he’s Andrew Johnstone, Design Steward of the man and his base.
“At the secret stealth location in Reno we build large sections of it, then that goes on to something like 15 semi-trucks and we take it all out to the desert,” Johnstone says. “Every day that we build here saves us three days on the playa. It's a lot easier to build here than it is in the desert.”
Each year, the base becomes more interactive, allowing it to be a social and meditative space. Previous bases have been things like flying saucers and a carnival of mirrors.
“This year, the theme is ‘I, Robot',” Johnstone says. “He will be on a giant cogwheel that's over 100 feet across with a central space that you can access from the outside, from the 3 and the 9.”
It’s a nod to the machine age and will be surrounded by fanciful robots, cyborgs, and works that explore humanity in an increasingly automated world.
“It's an audacious thing. It's an arms race of stupidity,” Johnstone says. “We never come back and go, ‘Let's do it smaller next year. Let's not be quite as ambitious next year.’ It's always bigger, bigger, bigger, crazier, and I love it.”
With this design, builders say they hope to honor founder Larry Harvey, who died earlier this year.