Welcome Home to Black Rock City: Urban Geography of the Burn
AuthorRohrmeier, Kerry Draeger
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In its short but vibrant history Burning Man evolved from spontaneous bohemian solstice celebration into a global intentional community anchored by ephemeral Black Rock Desert burns. Participants practice Ten Principles to embody an ethos that radically challenges mainstream culture through manifested Black Rock City (re)formation, negotiation, and deconstruction. The resulting paradoxical heterotopia originates from modernist garden city philosophy and is centered annually on a symbolic towering effigy, but the playa canvas provides ample room for communal architecture and services. Citizen engagement occurs do-ocratically in an environment without economic and administrative limitations to encourage creative productions that are interactive and gifted for public enjoyment.Though Burning Man Project and Bureau of Land Management are organizations that maintain key functional planning roles in Black Rock City by mitigating human environmental impact, examination reveals how participant-built environments freely endeavor to mock, reverse, and reconceptualize external society through unique, sometimes conflicting, but peacefully coexisting self-expressions. As fanatical demand for Black Rock City's perceived urban counterculture grows, research findings from longitudinal participant-observation suggests that doxic city life is not only present at Burning Man, it trends along an elite postwar suburban trajectory opposed to many guiding principles, and is specifically at odds with the principle of radical inclusivity.