Burning Man

Burning Man is massive – a temporary city of 70,000 people in the Nevada desert on a flat, alkaline, arid and endless ancient lake bed. The conditions are intense, the preparation and cleanup endless, the dust storms blanket vision when the wind blows up, but the artwork and the experience are like nothing else. Every year BM has a theme, and this year was Leonardo da Vinci’s workshops and the Florentine Renaissance; some of the art and offerings were created on that theme and the large towering central structure of ‘the Man’ was taken from da Vinci’s famous image, the base of which was surrounded by working recreations of Renaissance workshops from the 1500s filled with craftspeople and exhibits. The creativity, generosity, challenges and wild imagination of this vast gathering transcend anyone’s ability to report. The art, like everything, is all free and some of it is world class. There is no transaction of money except to buy ice, and no barters, so everyone gifts to one another; in fact large camps have a requirement to give back to the community. It changes the basic nature of relationship in this temporary society based on a gifting ‘economy’, which makes for some amazing daily interactions. 


Our camp was the Temple Guardians Home Camp, and our studio designed the camp and created an animated virtual reality fly-over video of the entire city. We were supported by Burning Man organization in an official capacity, as our camp housed the Temple Guardian Leadership and also created the shade structure space to train up to 100 people per day to become Guardians. The temple itself was a stunning building commissioned by artist-designer David Best which they burned on the Sunday night following the Man Burn.


On the last night our specially trained group of Guardians were stationed on the perimeter circle for the night of the burn, called ‘The Fire Team’, protecting a 200 yard radius of safe area. It was a moving experience; we kneel and look outward toward the thousands of people who have gathered, and for once out there it is so silent you can hear a pin drop. I watched the emotions of the people in the crowd, the intense heat from the conflagration warming my back through my leather jacket 200 yards away, the flickering orange light from the flames reflecting the waves of emotion on their faces. One cannot help but be drawn into the gamut of human experience as all those messages are sent up into the night sky in an ascending gyre of sparks and smoke. Thirty foot mini-tornadoes, born of the intense heat, spin off into the cooler night air, sometimes picking up showers of descending embers to become glowing wraithlike forms that twist and turn over the desert floor. And we all bear witness to our common humanity, moved by the spectacle of that which we have seen and in awe of that which cannot be seen. We are bound in the moment by a mystical chord, sharing and witnessing the indescribable ritual spectacle of the temple burning and becoming a pyre containing messages and memories of lives that ascend to the sky in remembrance, release and recognition of the transience of all human experience. 

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Bilquis Ayar


Bilquis Ayar is an Architecturally trained designer specializing in custom homes with experience in commercial office buildings. She has practiced as a designer and design manager for projects ranging from residential bathroom renovations to 30,000 sq.ft. commercial office TIs. Bilquis graduated from the University of California Berkeley with a degree in Architecture. She has also worked in Real Estate for over 10 years and holds a California Real Estate Agent License. Bilquis is intrigued by tiny homes and compartmental living solutions. She enjoys trying new restaurants and new cuisines and is a big sports fan and a loyal follower of the SF 49ers and the SF Giants. Her favorite activity is relaxing at home with a cup of tea and watching a show or reading a good book.

Thayer Hopkins


Thayer Hopkins is an architect and designer with over 40 years of experience in architecture, interiors, and furniture design. Thayer is a 5th generation San Franciscan who graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with degrees in Architecture and Fine Arts. 


Thayer has expertise in climate-responsive sustainable regional architecture and has completed hundreds residential projects, mostly located in the Bay Area. The practice also includes buildings for corporate, professional, commercial, office, retail and educational clients.  His award-winning furniture designs are seen in many showrooms and publications, and have been selected for hotels, resorts, residences and cruise ships. Additionally, his creativity has led to designs for theater and opera sets, interior spaces on an aircraft carrier, exhibit design and graphic identity projects.


Thayer has been a long-time volunteer and has offered his time and skills as lifelong Trustee & Chair of Cathedral School for Boys Buildings & Grounds Committee and liaison with Grace Cathedral, member of the Rhode Island School of Design Architectural Advisory Council, Director and Treasurer of the San Francisco Architectural Club, President of the Alumni Council and member of the Board of Town School for Boys, Director of the Board and member of the Committee for the Renovation of the California Tennis Club.

Tiffany Stakem

Senior Associate

As the daughter of a contractor from small-town Pennsylvania, Tiffany was exposed at an early age to construction sites and developed an affinity for fine details and home design. After graduating from Pratt Institute in New York with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Architecture, with its own custom cabinet shop, and then apprenticed for eight years under an architect specializing in custom residential design. Tiffany’s untiring dedication and adventurous spirit brought her to San Francisco for a project in 2008. Tiffany absolutely loves what she does, and it shows. When not working, she enjoys escaping the city; camping, backpacking, rock climbing, paddling, diving in remote undersea landscapes, or rappelling through the canyons of Southern Utah.​

Ellen Rothstein

Marketing & Client Relations

Ellen Rothstein has been an exhibiting artist, a color consultant and has studied interior design. She applied her training and artistic vision to the field of advertising, collaborating with creative teams and managing clients. This experience segued perfectly to becoming a project manager and client services & marketing manager on the client side. Additionally, Ellen is a certified Life Transition Coach and author.

Ellen has leveraged the breadth of her experience to be a management & marketing consultant for Thayer Hopkins Architects, bringing the sum of her art background, acquired business acumen and understanding of human interaction to the benefit of the practice. Ellen received her B.A. Practice of Art, from U.C. Berkeley. She studied Interior Design in the Certificate Program at U.C. Berkeley Extension, and is CAA Certified International Life Coach. See Ellen’s designs @ ellenbrodydesigns.com

Rosemary Brito


Rosemary Brito started her career as an Architect in Brazil after receiving her degree in a five year in Architecture and Urban Design program from the Pontifical Catholic University of Goias. After graduating she worked in Brazil designing and supervising large scale projects. Rosemary moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1991 and worked on the design and project management of residential high-end projects. The scope of her work includes a diverse portfolio ranging from residences, offices, retail and restaurants, custom furniture design to yacht refits, both locally and internationally. Rosemary brings a personal approach to her work and experience as a homeowner, landlord and property investor. Rosemary is a keen listener with attention to detail and an eye for quality. She brings her international experience to any project, with a focus on her clients’ objectives, transforming thoughts into reality. She enjoys a collaborative teamwork approach with clients, colleagues and builders and is passionate about her work. She supports academic programs and has volunteered her time for high schools in Marin County, where she resides with her husband and two sons.