Early in 2000, a young restauranteur presented an idea for a huge “Cafe” at Center Camp. His premise was “the larger the structure, the more coffee would be sold,” so if it was big enough it would much more than pay for itself. However, even if this formula didn’t prove out, a grand central meeting space would still be a fine community asset.
A 3/4 sphere of glued toothpicks was the model for a one to two hundred foot high dome, this to be built of timber bamboo shipped up from Mexico. The proposed structure was evaluated by our City Designer, Rod Garrett.
This design proved not entirely practical, as it would have an enormous surface area compared to the usable area within its footprint, and might roll through the city like a giant potato masher in high winds. Further, we had no expertise in building high in the air with bamboo, possibly having to import a crew from Asia. Lastly, the bamboo would simply explode into cracks and splinters in the extreme low humidity and heat of the high desert. (more…)
[Editor’s Note: Rod Garrett’s essay Designing Black Rock City, originally written for the Burning Man website, provides a comprehensive history of the thinking and factors that have impacted the evolution of the Black Rock City Plan, and as such is an excellent starting framework for the consideration of Black Rock City as an urban planning Petri dish. We’ve reproduced it here in its entirety, as a foundational document for the Metropol Blog Series.]
The historic origins of what was to become Black Rock City began with the relocation of the Man’s burning from Baker Beach in San Francisco to the Black Rock Desert, Nevada in 1991.
Due to the several hundred mile trip, it was necessary to establish an overnight camp near the Man for the 250 participants who attended. The original form of the camp was a circle. This was not particularly planned, but formed instinctively from the traditional campfire circle and the urge to “circle the wagons” against the nearly boundless space. The following year, an informal plan was required by the B.L.M. for permission to camp. It rapidly developed from a weekend to a week-long event.
Not only was it difficult to find our modest settlement in the expanse, but people exiting our village frequently got lost or mired on the margins of the playa. For practical reasons, four avenues were added, indicating the cardinal directions. Compass headings added to the circle served our need to orient ourselves in that stark emptiness. (more…)
We might view Black Rock City as a great machine, efficiently providing the many hundreds of functions needed to help sustain us in a wilderness almost devoid of life. However, it seems more appropriate to consider it an organism, much more than simply a sum of its parts.
Our city is dynamic, adaptive and reactive. The streets stream with people like arteries seen under a microscope. It’s organic structure milling with the movement of information and materials, with organizing and building, nourishing and removing wastes, finally breaking down and disappearing. Additionally, it references the mythological Phoenix in symbolically burning and being reborn from itself each year. (more…)