ESC Collective Takes Design Off The Grid

The Portland upstart gives us the tools to survive the apocalypse—or to just camp at a festival in style.

By Nathan Tucker October 14, 2013

There’s no denying the strange human fascination with the apocalypse: our species has been thinking and talking about the collapse of society as long as we’ve recorded what we think and talk about. Maybe it’s deep-seated fatalism, maybe some of us feel suffocated by economic and social powers beyond our control, maybe some of us have boring jobs. Maybe some of us just really like camping—I don’t know.

Whatever the source, eschatological fixation has an aesthetic side, as the ESC Collective showed at their Design Week open house this weekend.

At a two-day event at their workshop in SE Portland, they showed off the hand-built geodesic domes they construct for various events—they’ve just built 12 for the Summit Outside festival in Utah, and the one we were in had recently been at Burning Man. Paired with the motorcycle building projects and beautiful woodworking that other members of the collective were displaying, the display was a how-to for living off the grid in perfectly laid-back Portland style.

It’s an aesthetic that extends to the sourcing of the materials: one member told me that the fabric covering our temporary abode was unused Nike material for waterproof golf bags. It was an inviting enough escape on a typically dreary Portland morning; I can only imagine how cozy these structures would be far away from city blocks.

ESC Collective is just getting started. They built their first dome for this year’s Sasquatch music festival, of course, but they’re already full of ideas for what comes next.

And as long as people still want to escape, this group should have a market for their creations.

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