Does Burning Man Need a New Urban Plan?

Does burning man need a new urban plan?
The “Circle” plan from Phil Walker’s “Kit of Parts” plan for Burning Man

Even a temporary city requires thoughtful design when it reaches a population of 70,000 and growing.

When a group of Burners describing themselves as the Black Rock City Ministry of Urban Planning announced a design competition last fall for a new urban plan for Burning Man, Phil Walker had never given the matter much thought.

“I’m actually not a Burner. I’ve never done it,” says Walker, the senior associate vice president for CallisonRTKL, an architecture firm and design consultancy. “Maybe a bit of vicarious living for a middle-aged suburban dad is what appealed to me.”

Walker nevertheless joined several dozen architects, planners, Burners, and otherwise interested parties by contributing a concept to the so-called Big Book of Ideas, a collection of sketches and renderings of new urban plans for Burning Man. Some of the nearly 100 plans reorient the cosmic desert geometry of Black Rock City, the site of the annual Burning Man pilgrimage. Other plans seem to defy the laws of physics. One plan reshapes Black Rock City to form the letters “S.O.S.”—visible from space, of course.

But Walker’s urban plan for Burning Man simply improves upon the original by applying setbacks along certain streets and intersections for different cultural and urban uses.

Once Walker began investigating the history of Burning Man, he says, he became fascinated with the evolution of Black Rock City. As Burners know, the festival got its start in 1986 with the simple burning of an effigy on Baker Beach in San Francisco. Thirty years later, it’s an unparalleled annual pop-up settlement that lures more than 70,000 people to the Nevada desert every year.

What Burners may not know—what may not be obvious to Burning Man participants even as they are engaging in the drug-fueled, barter-driven utopian experiment that is Burning Man—is that certain longstanding design decisions guide the entire civic scheme of the festival. […]

Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today.
Aline Chahine
Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today. Highlights Aline founded Architecture Lab in 2008 Lead editor of dan | dailyarchnews since 2019 Founded and Creative Director of DesignRaid Licensed architect with creative sales and marketing experience Experience As full-fledged architect, Aline's background involved a great deal of research that lead to the creation of Architecture Lab as an online database of exemplary design. Her experience snowballed into founding two architecture platforms, Architecture Lab and DesignRaid. Education Aline received USEK’s Master of Architecture in 2004 and BA in English from the University of Toronto
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About Architecture Lab Architecture Lab is a MKR.S Media brand, a website devoted to extraordinary design and aesthetics aiming to promote exceptional aesthetic values and sustainable design in all it's shapes and sizes. Learn more about us and our editorial process and feel free to contact us if you would like to see something in particular on the website, our certified experts will get back to you with the most trustworthy advice as soon as possible. Read all articles by Aline | Follow her on LinkedIn

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