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Burning Man Asks: How Would You Design Black Rock City?

Enter a competition to redesign the legendary site of the annual Burning Man Festival.
From Flickr user Duncan Rawlinson, some rights reserved

The Black Rock City Ministry of Urban Planning, a group comprised of long-term burners, camp organizers, and artists, announced an international open call competition to redesign the layout of the Burning Man festival. For those still unfamiliar, every year roughly 70,000 festivalgoers gather on the dry lake of northwestern Nevada's Black Rock Desert to burn a giant wooden Man/Sculpture/Pyre object; it's a weeklong art and music festival that culminates in a giant ceremonial bonfire.


With the exception of the man, center camp, and ‘essential’ facilities, which are provided by the company that puts on the production, all of the artworks featured in the desert are participatory, meaning they are developed and carried out within the larger Burning Man community. This year, however, it occurred to the ministry that urban planning is an art form itself, and should thus be left in the hands of the people. “Thats what makes it an amazing and unique event.” says Brian McConnell, a.k.a., Captain McConzies, the co-founder of the Ministry of Urban Planning.

Thus, McConzies tells the Creators Project, this new open call is not about fixing anything in particular. He explains that the current and recurring design for Black Rock City works very well on a practical level, “just as people don't create new art every year because the previous year’s art needed improvement.”

From Flickr user Duncan Rawlinson, some rights reserved

The competition will be broken up into two stages: in the first stage, entrants submit a single page sketch or rendering of their design accompanied by a brief description and ideas for further development.

The objective is to surface the ten best concepts, as determined by the public via an open vote online. The top ten will then proceed to stage two, where designers will be asked to elaborate on their designs on a more practical level: traffic flow, logistics, and safety considerations. “We did not want to over program the competition, except to provide a few basic spatial constraints,” McConnell tells The Creators Project. Contestant designs must fit the pentagonal boundaries of the festival, keep the man and the temple as the foci of the city’s layout, and provide enough open space for whatever art installations. Other than that, designers, architects, creatives, are given complete freedom.


The second, more developed tier of designs, will again be judged by the Burning Man community in an online public forum, and eventually be passed onto the Burning Man management team for final review.

“This clearly hit a nerve as we've had hundreds of people register from all over the world overnight” McConnell tells The Creators Project. Stage one of the competition will be taking place in the Fall of 2015, registration is open now and they will be accepting entries from October through December 31st.

From Flickr user Neil Girling, some rights reserved.

From Flickr user Mack Reed, some rights reserved.

Click here to enter the Black Rock City Street Plan Design Competition.


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