By Maryann Bucci - Carter of Jersey City, New Jersey Planning Division from USAView another randomly chosen design?
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Black Rock City's Possible Future….Cyber World’s Fair….Creative Commons Contribution
There are some cities homo sapiens love exploring and wandering through. They contain neighborhoods that capture the imagination and draw people into them. It is not always evident why some are more successful than others. Some neighborhoods just make people feel comfortable. It appears that this success is achieved by not one single set of rules, but influenced by a unique variety of factors and characteristics present in each individual city. What works in some cities, does not work in others.
When I first saw the grid pattern of BRC I was fascinated. So much is accomplished in a regular easy to navigate layout based on a natural compass with dramatic focal points and highlights.
The only drawback is that it is static. The BRC experience is spontaneous, free spirited, and creative in every way except in its city plan. A permanent city would evolve and grow over time (even if population # remains unchanged). That evolution should be especially true for BRC. BRC should be stronger in this area than traditional brick and mortar cities and it can.
Here are some physical observations and ideas:
1. Angled Streets and Opened View Corridors
The roundness of the city is wonderful and organic. As one walks or rides along the circular roads their path gradually unfolds before them. It reminds us of the spiral you feel when you walk a labyrinth. It is exciting and spontaneous. However, the radial roads, being pin straight, are not. It is desirable to have several of these grand straight avenues as they can be breathtaking in their view corridor advantages. With terminated vistas on the Man or the sunset or the sculptures. But these vistas become less advantageous when they're all the same. One of the lessons of new urbanism is to angle some of the blocks so that while traveling down a street or road you get to see the beauty and fabric of what you are approaching. And what you will come to or pass by. After all, the journey is just as important as the destination and it is marginalized when the street is straight.
Views is enliven the soul. If the end of each radial road was splayed open slightly uit would provide large benefits for the masses.
2. Lounges scattered throughout the City
Another component to enhancing the experience of the journey through the city is to have some areas where people can gather and spark a happening or interaction along the street. A shaded respite that can be counted on to be there. In mundane cities we add benches and plazas, but in BRC there are options that can be more geared towards behavior than boring passive parks perpetuated throughout the modern city. A first trial could be to insert gathering - chatting- spaces along the main straight radial road getting gradually larger and larger as you get closer to the man. They can be designed by Burners for Burners rest and relaxation.
3. Revolving Iconic Element
Every city has an icon; the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, or even Thames River. BRC has the man and the temple and its art. Brick and morter cities create and accumulate more icons over time, somehow that needs to be built into the fabric of BRC too. I would love to see a bridge over a lake. Now the lake would not have water, of course, it would have something else to be determined by the burners, designers and artists of the event. If it breaks into the city grid it could create lake front property! I would love to see Burners do justice to the bourgeoisie concept of that. At least it can also serve to form a new and varied neighborhood experience for festival attendees. Maybe it's a river instead of a lake and the river flows through the entire city. Iconic and transforming but doubling as emergency access to some of the denser encampment blocks. The bridge serves as the continuation of the radial road adding variety to the landscape and the experience as burners travel around the city.
The flatness of the Black Rock Desert is magnificent. It defines the city. But in a creative and improvisational city some elevation changes can be amazing. A temporary climbable mini mountain or hill in random places to recline on and watch the playa play or the sky would be a spiritual addition to the City overall. All art opportunities that allow people to climb and change your vantage point are always desirable. It could be another experience to make it part of the city as well. Still art but integrated into the fabric of the city.
4. Patterning the Grid (or at least a portion of it) on Iconic World Destinations
One of our planners has suggested this as a brake once in a while from the Black Rock Mold, just for the fun of it. This can be very exciting and we will explore this further if it gains support.
Overall, we do not think a radical change to the city master plan is warranted or necessary. How an abrupt change would affect the behavior of that many people is untested and probably unsafe. Actually, small incremental evolutions could be the best approach and most beneficial for the experience of the attendees, especially repeat burners. It also better supports the ongoing social experiment through minor adjustments without undermining its roots, and adds the component of a new land use planning experiment that can be valuable and useful for traditional cities, and their traditional city planners to learn from.
It will be exciting to see how changes in the form of BRC impact the social and behavioral aspects of the event and if the added diversity has a measurable positive effect on the experience.
5. Rule of Thumb
We believe the most valuable planning or zoning practice is to regulate only what you think is absolutely essential to achieve. Stated another way, require only the elements you want and leave the rest to the market, or in this case, the imagination of the burners. BRC does this already, and the way it is designed and implemented is the best example of this practice being played out and lived annually.
1. ANGLED STREETS for Bike and Pedestrian only
2. LOUNGE Oasis
3. REVOLVING ICONIC ELEMENT or Man Made Natural Feature
Aka Mr. Bi Polar