A visionary “BRCity2” city design proposal was made in late 2009. While the plan addressed proportional growth, review by the Burning Man staff determined we could not reasonably implement the entire redesign for 2010.
Chief among our concerns was an expanded inner Esplanade, which we tried in 2008 to much participant dismay. The pedestrian and bicycle mobility around the greatly-expanded space was not helped by a particularly soft playa surface, so perhaps 2008 was not a fair test of this change?
Since 1999 the city has had seventeen radial streets following clock face hour and half-hour increments. The BRCity2 proposal was forty-nine radials at ten minute increments! To offset this increase in radial streets, the proposal reduced the number of concentric lettered streets from thirteen in 2009, down to eight. This created deep, square blocks which would not allow us to place many of the largest camps and villages.
Also, we have noted the reluctance for most theme camps to occupy corner lots. In our years of experience, deeper blocks remain sparsely populated at their centers. We did increase the block depth slightly in 2010: blocks previously measured curb to curb as 385 feet and 175 feet deep were evened up to 400 and 200 feet, respectively.
One feature that held our interest was new zones for large camps and villages deep in the city near the 2:30 and 9:30 radial streets. As the very largest camps get larger, it is becoming more difficult to place them. Concerns about proximity to Large Scale Sound Art camps melted away when camps accepted this new placement in 2010. The Placement team’s instincts were right, and the nervous camps made it work.
It takes a few years for ideas to fully coalesce. The plazas at 3:00 and 9:00 had shake-out years before they became the striving civic centers enjoyed today. Camps which were first placed at the 4:30 and 7:30 plazas thought perhaps they might be being punished for something, not sensing that they were viewed rather as strong enough to provide anchoring destinations for these new, and ultimately successful avenues.
The BRCity 2 proposal had three new “public plazas” one block in from the last street of BRC, located at 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00. With the success of theme camps taking ownership of the five established plazas, we wondered what would happen if minimal reserved theme camp placement was made at these back plazas, while allowing the lion’s share of camping space here to be open and available to the general public? Although plans for public hearths here did not come to fruition in 2010, this experiment was generally successful at 3:00 and 9:00, and we look forward to repeating the experiment with more support in 2011.
The BRCity2 proposal continues to intrigue us and inspire discussion as we prepare the 2011 city plan. Don’t be surprised if we gently move, in incremental steps, toward changes that strive to strike a balance between functionality and growth, social interaction and the striking visual presence of both the Man at the center, and the amazing encompassing environment of the Black Rock Desert.
Terry Schoop, on behalf of the City Planning Sub-Committee