2008 saw significant changes to the layout and size of Black Rock City. Such changes, of course, are not without precedent. Indeed, the one constant throughout the history of the Burning Man organization and our community has been change, allowing the creative and dynamic to flourish.
Ironically, while the Burning Man community generally touts “radical self-expression”, each significant change in City planning has elicited protest and even threats. But the reality is that as much as we love the familiar, without change the event would soon lose luster and stultify. And without carefully considered changes being made regularly to the City plan, the City itself would become untenable.
In 1997, the City was specifically designed to be scaleable, so as to accommodate anticipated population growth. And since then, it has remained a work in progress, requiring yearly adaptations to keep up with the population. Every modification has incorporated some combination of functional, aesthetic, and social aspects, which anticipate and avoid the overwhelming of our facilities and services.
Changes Implemented for 2008
In 2007, the central playa (inside the circle of our city) was considered by some to be hazardous, as it swarmed with pedestrians, bicyclists, mutant vehicles, and emergency vehicles. Since building the first Black Rock City in 1998, the distance from the Man to the Esplanade has been 2,100 feet. In 2008, that was increased to 2,700 feet, giving everybody some breathing room.
Unfortunately, when combined with the challenging playa conditions seen in 2008, resulting from meager winter and springtime rains, it made for difficult travel. And while some lamented the apparent sparseness of art installations, others will remember that that kind of separation between artworks used to be considered necessary and uncrowded.
With our population growth in recent years, Center Camp had become clogged with people, services and installations, and was in need of expansion. Thus, Center Camp was expanded in 2008, bumping it slightly more out into the open playa (jutting into and somewhat diverting the path of the Esplanade). Services were significantly rearranged to allow for greater visibility and more efficient access. Also, allocating additional space between Center Camps inner circle and the outer ring road afforded the placement department more flexibility to place theme camps there that could meet the demands of being located in Center Camp while providinge a bit more living space for Burning Man staffers.
Finally, as the size of the central playa was increased (where 2007s “C” street became 2008s Esplanade), the outer annular streets, being farther out on the radius from the Man, therefore became longer, creating additional camping space for participants. The added distance also had the effect of making it more difficult to place theme camps along the larger Esplanade. Consequently, some places were not as dynamic or active as in past years.