Black Rock Lighthouse Service Illuminates the Playa

There is now a shining beacon in deep playa it shimmers from 11:00 and G and can be gleamed far past Walk-in-Camping. An outcropping of lighthouses 30 — 65 feet tall that jut from the playa like a sharp Euhedral crystal cluster. Making their emergence from the playa this week through +109º temps and inclement downpours a bright light ignites in the darkest of nights aiding in guiding travelers to safe harbors of inspiration.

The Black Rock Lighthouse Service (BRLS) is now in service, and as the sun sets on the first official day of Burning Man, I meet with the artists at dusk as they see it lit for the first time and share stories about the project.

The lighthouses are physical manifestations of the goddesses Artemis, Brigette, Coco, Durga & Elie with interiors designed  by Gabriela Levandowski, and Toshiaki Uchikoshi, Rebecca Anders, Gretchen Stamp, Raven & Luscious.



The lighthouse project is truly a family affair, led by father and son team Max & Jonny Poynton. A community driven project built primarily with reclaimed materials by a tight-knit core crew of just 20 members.



Max’s mom Finola is working on the fabrics in Elie.Lighthouse-010

Each lighthouse has an artist leading the enchanting and otherworldly designs of the interiors. The fabrics team for Elie is lead by Textile Designer Gabriela Levandowski.

Toshiaki Uchikoshi is working on the Mirror Bowler interior of the Durga lighthouse the team of 6 is a cross cultural collaboration of  Japanese and American members.Lighthouse-014Toshiaki Uchikoshi.

Lighthouse-017Rebecca Anders: Lead artist for Coco’s Crystal Cloud Lounge.


Gretchen Stamp  Artemis Lighouse: a look inside the mind of a mad man.


Raven & Luscious’ enchanting and enigmatically rich interior of Brigette.

Lighthouse-012The Dice Bros. building bridges from lighthouse to lighthouse.  In the off season they make zip-lines in Maui.

I spoke to Jonny about the project as he gazed upon it, seeing it lit up for the first time and sharing a bit about his experience working with Max to create Black Rock Lighthouse Service.

“He’s a great teacher to me and I’m a great teacher to him.
You know, we’re friends now. I’m not ‘his dad’. It’s not the patriarchal power balance. In fact— if anything he’s the power behind this… I’m the man who goes… ‘Don’t stop. It’s okay… and if you’re stuck come and talk to me and I’ll help you with it.’ We’re very close and we learn more about each other as we work with a bunch of our friends on this and they’re very supportive in the process. It’s a family project.”
“To me this BRLS is mainly Max’s vision. My concept, his vision. I look at it and I go, wow, this is what you came up with on those crazy nights.”
Dave Keane’s(Lead Carpenter) and Max Poynton.
Dave Keane, the projects Lead Carpenter, breaks things down.
“This was a big community effort. A lot of people helped— financially and volunteered labour. Very grassroots, not many big donors.”
“We built it in sections, so when we put it up, we’d never seen it before… so it was nice when it all lined up. It was all theoretical until we actually saw it.”

The talest lighthouse, Brigette, is 65’ and 4 stories tall. During a test the military spotlight sent a piece of wood up in smoke in under 5 seconds.

“So, we’ve got a sheetrock, metal air gap lined light tower and the spotlight moves a little faster” explained Dave.

Lighthouse-006Eric Kneer is the projects Structural Engineer, helping insure the lighthouses could stand tall without the use of guide wires.

Jonny explains the complexity and scope of the task…

“It’s a massive project and we didn’t want to do the thing that everybody else has done which is guide wires. So to actually get all the levels and hold it down into the ground we found all these new anchors.

One of the things people don’t understand about building art out here, is that your art is actually held together by how wide your truck load is. Which is 8 feet. You can not go over your 8 feet. So you have to design everything in a modular version, which is how you get this in.

So we have 6 pieces of a hexagon that kept on getting smaller on each one… each layer. But we still to come up with ingenuitive ways to actually put it together… See this stripe, this isn’t just designing it, it’s working it out, you’re calculating… ‘Oh, this has got to be here and that’s gotta be there… we are all like… No, that’s not gonna work’. It’s a lot of time spent continually making sure the vision you have is going to work. Not just, I hope this is going to work. It’s very different.”

Lighthouse-007Leo, Jimbo and Noah Dice building bridges from lighthouse to lighthouse.

Lighthouse-015Tom Lee: Project Lead, Head Cat Herder and Master Spreadsheet Wrangler.

Day crew and night crew worked through +100º temperatures and inclement downpours to realize the creation of Black Rock Lighthouse Service.


A breath of fresh air and one of the most intricately beautiful things in deep playa, go see Black Rock Lighthouse Service before it goes up on Saturday after The Man burn.

You can see the build process on the teams instagram @brlighthouseservice


You can follow along with my chronicles of Burning Man Chronicles over on Instagram @shalaco.

About the author: Shalaco


Follow along with me on my adventures as Black Rock City returns to dust. I run around with a camera and talk to people. Check out my Burning Man Vlogs here.

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