[Tyronus first set foot in Black Rock City in 2002. His Masters Degree in Urban Planning, experience in responsible real estate development and silver tongue have earned him the position of chief communicator for Vertical Camp, where he promotes the ideas the structure communicates. Urban infill housing has the power to create better communities, and quality of life as a result. This post is part of the Metropol Blog Series.]
Black Rock City has always been a city planner’s dusty dream. From its thoughtful layout to its interactive streets and its perfect bikability, many of us wish our cities and towns in the default world were so engaging. You could even describe it as radical urbanism, if you haven’t already.
The streetscape of any city is important. Factors such as setbacks, the types of uses that line a street, and the massing of structures all govern our views, our movement, and often our moods. Black Rock City provides several different neighborhood environments – from the dense, packed activity of Center Camp and the Esplanade to the comparatively suburban corner of 8:30 and H. Along the way, the structures can be incredible feats of temporary engineering. On the other hand, one can’t help but feel a little uninspired by the sight of a beat up, blown out tent, its last stake tied off to a sagging piece of shade cloth.
Vertical Camp has been improving upon the built environment of Black Rock City, and we’ve been doing it through building up. We’re a group of designers, planners and real-estate types (along with an assortment of brilliant and talented creators) who want to challenge the dominant land use patterns that exist at Burning Man. Since 2005, we’ve utilized re-usable scaffolding to create an efficient and comfortable tower structure that houses dozens of campers in individual, private apartments.
The apartments and view decks are stacked several stories above the lower levels, which contain a common kitchen, a large living room, and shared closets. Each year the design changes. The structure is fun, interesting, and nice to look at – it comes alive at night, with light. We’ve also learned that living a few stories above the playa is a little cooler and much less dusty. As for the views…!
But it’s more than just a structure. The thinking is that more people comfortably residing within smaller spaces will improve the entire city by making it more efficient and active. Sustainability is enhanced through our compact camp infrastructure – solar powered electricity and plumbing are easily accommodated. Our placement – at 4:00 and Athens – is convenient to the activities and services of Center Camp and the Esplanade, and is featured as an official art car stop on SPUR’s transit route.
These development and design principles have been used in central cities around the world, and in an ever-increasing number of progressively-planned suburbs as well. It seems a little ironic or juxtaposistic (yup) to bring this type of living to Black Rock City, but we’re quite happy to do it.
4:00 & Athens