Burning Man 2010 to feature ‘untidy hubs of social interaction’

The 2010 Burning Man festival in Northern Nevada’s Black Rock Desert (Aug. 30 — Sept. 6) will take an unlikely art theme: “Metropolis.”

But then, is any theme “unlikely” if it is featured at Burning Man? Unlikely is sort of the over-arching raison d’être, after all. To wit: “Pondering the concept of the Temporary Autonomous Zone and the possibilities of building something less impermanent …”

That’s from the official BM web site. There, you’ll see the following: “Great cities are organic, spontaneous, heterogeneous, and untidy hubs of social interaction. At Burning Man 2010, we will inspect the daily course of city life and the future prospect of civilization. Prior to the event, we’ll host an ongoing conversation about urban design and its impact on culture and community in the Metropol Blog Series.”

The Metropol blog was introduced in April by Larry Harvey, Burning Man’s director. He called the annual event “the first bohemian scene to turn itself into a city.” And the more you learn about BM, the more you realize, of course. Mayor Nutter may have designs on making Philly the greenest city in the United States, but no permanent town will ever be able to touch Black Rock, with its distinctive desert-brown take on green.

Harvey notes that Black Rock City has spawned “a host of public agencies,” among them health and safety, communications, camp placement, land use planning, and “the construction and maintenance of civic infrastructure.”

“Our Department of Mutant Vehicles (DMV) and Department of Public Works (DPW) are institutions such as one might find in any normal city,” he wrote. “The melding of this governmental infrastructure with a deeply rooted ethic of participation makes our city an intriguing model that can be applied to urban planning in the larger world.”

Black Rock City (the “Temporary Autonomous Zone” itself), as it happens, even has a city manager, who discusses the town’s zoning here.

Anybody who comes up with a really solid reason for PlanPhilly’s editor, Matt Golas, to send me to the playa for coverage gets a free lunch and a pack of matches.

–Posted by Thomas J. Walsh

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