Rod Garrett, City Designer

The London Observer has described Black Rock City as a “beautifully zoned tentopolis, designed with a precision of which the Renaissance city-state idealists or Hausssman would approve.” The architect behind this complex plan was Rod Garrett.

Rod was raised in southern California in the San Fernando Valley. He arrived in the Bay Area during the early ’60’s in time to encounter the Beat culture of San Francisco. Here he became friends with the poet Gary Snyder and the comic Lenny Bruce. During this same period he taught himself the art of landscape design and became a licensed contractor, specializing in the creation of fountains, pools and architecture. In 1995, he attended his first Burning Man, and joined the project as our chief designer in 1997. Working in collaboration with Larry Harvey, Will Roger, Harley Dubois, and other staff members, Rod originated the annual plan of Black Rock City. The huge tensometric structure that houses our community’s central cafĂ© was devised by Rod, as was the conception and configuration of the giant Laser Man at our event in 2000. In 2001, he designed the Temple of Enlightenment that formed the pedestal of Burning Man. As resident architect for the project, Rod also created many other structures and site plans for our Department of Public Works.

Rod Garrett was a courteous, soft-spoken, and deliberate man whose manners mask a lightning apprehension. He was valued by many for his wise counsel. He was also able to grasp the salient features of any design problem, seemingly at a glance. Rod’s personal reserve was very like the polish and the perfect fit of his designs. And yet, embedded in each detail and considered word, behind this lucid vision of an ordered world, there existed a big hearted and strong willed creature.