Washington-based architect and designer Michael Mannhard has unveiled designs for BladeYARD, a proposal for a Burning Man 2021 installation built from recycled wind turbine blades. Created as a visual warning of the effects of climate change and shortsighted solutions, the installation mimics a large-scale ruin with parts of the blades submerged in the sands of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

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rendering of recycled wind turbine blades sticking out of desert sand

Part of Mannhard’s inspiration for the project stems from a recent Bloomberg News article that says wind turbine blades can’t be recycled, and as a result, they are piling up in landfills at a rate of nearly 8,000 blades a year. “What does it mean when this symbol of hope fails us so greatly?” asks Mannhard, who recalls growing up in the Midwest and marveling at sights of the massive turbines. “How is it that the most prominent symbol of our sustainable future was designed in such a way as to simply be buried in the ground at the end of its working life as a blade? These objects are now layered in new meaning as symbols of our shortsightedness in how we approach our built world and the incredible challenge of designing for the whole life cycle of products.”

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aerial rendering of wind turbine blades scattered in a desert

The BladeYARD project would explore those questions by bringing people up close with a “graveyard” of wind turbine blades. The massive blades — some of which can reach 100 meters in length — would be arranged like the bleached bones of an animal carcass, with some elements lying flat and partly buried in the sand while others stick straight up. Burning Man participants would be able to climb atop of, seek shelter under and wander through the sculptural installation.

rendering of people resting against massive wind turbine blades

If it is accepted as an installation at Burning Man 2021, Mannhard plans to have BladeYARD dismantled and moved to a more permanent home after the event. Burning Man is scheduled to take place every year at the end of the summer in Northern Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

+ Michael Mannhard

Images by Michael Mannhard

rendering of wind turbine blades in the desert lit up at night