Posts Tagged ‘burning man

15
Oct
10

Burning Man and some urban planning thoughts

The term ‘Black Rock Desert’ is somewhat of a misnomer. A desert is a hostile, harsh ecosystem wherelife of some sort has managed to adapt and thrive under the sun’s harsh glare and blistering heat. There are no sand dunes and no cacti out in the alkali flats, just cloudless brilliant blue skies and endless clouds of harsh dust that stings your eyes and leaves your lips hardened and chapped. The alkali flats themselves are ringed by a small mountain range that seemed deceptively close and looked, in the morning and afternoon, like something out of a Lawren Harris painting. I had vowed to bring in no more gear than I could carry on my back and in my arms, and so I arrived in a dust storm and freak rain-shower with some one hundred and twenty pounds of, well, stuff. George Carlin famously said that a house is a place for your stuff and stuff is the collected array of things that slowly but surely fill up your house…and a small 7-by-four foot tent would be housing my stuff for the next eight days. Most of this- eighty pounds- was water.

Pictures do not do Burning Man justice. I’ve heard someone say that trying to describe Burning Man to someone who has not been there is like trying to describe the colour red to someone who has never before seen colours. Burning Man, in a way, reminded me of what it is like to walk around wide-eyed and in wonder of everything around one’s self and I’ve done my best to try and take that feeling back home with me. Besides being a research assignment, it was also a meditative exercise. When I left Reno, Nevada there were two major hurricanes in the Atlantic south of Bermuda threatening the U.S. east coast, the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall was being commemorated, and talking heads on the major American news networks were chattering on about the NYC Islamic Center controversy and the upcoming Congressional and Senate elections. Being in a total communications technology blackout for eight days gave me a chance to think about urbanism, street art and life in general with only my surroundings for inspiration.

to be continued with more from Burning Man and some thoughts on what I’ve been reading recently and the current state of our cities. New streetart update coming soon… and for you Canadians out there, this awesome book is out in bookstores tomorrow! This is definitely on my reading list this month.

19
Sep
10

Burning Man, Part Three

At its widest, Black Rock City is close to two miles wide. It is located out on the inhospitable Black Rock Desert, an alkaline lake bed eleven miles north of the small town of Gerlach and 120 miles northeast of Reno. As an urban planner in training, I’ve come to learn to care about the facts and figures. Then again, by going to Burning Man you’re heading out into a desert environment where you have to care about the important numbers- namely a 30 degree celsius differential between night and day temperatures and a recommended intake of 1-1.5 gallons of water daily.

As an urban planner in training and someone who has been wanting to attend Burning Man for several years running, I found this year’s theme of The Life of the City too enticing to resist. If there is one thing that has always amazed me about Burning Man, it’s the degree to which it seems to showcase the most incredible aspects of human creativity. (Even before attending, I’ve compared it to what would happen if one gave LSD to MacGyver, and that description seemed the most accurate one once I settled in there). Ever since I found myself working on the post-Katrina relief and reconstruction effort in New Orleans, I’ve found myself interested in post-disaster situations and the possibilites for improvement therein. Burning Man seemed like it would present a challenging situation in terms of water conservation and management, and so I decided that documenting innovative methods of DIY water management and use would be one of my goals out in the desert. It could have a practical and useful application in terms of a reapplication to temporary settlements elsewhere in the world…after all, Black Rock City is one of the world’s largest self-contained temporary camps. And if all else fails, when one is heading out into a Hunter S. Thompsonesque fantasy world for eight days it’s good to have a project to keep one’s self grounded.

Reno, the fourth-largest city in Nevada, is a curious entity. The Truckee River, which flows through the heart of Reno’s downtown, is surrounded by a gorgeous linear park which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding hills. Yet the city itself seems an interlinked web of strip malls, a giant, sprawling construction where the only buildings higher than five storeys are the hotels of the casino district. I arrived in Reno in the early morning of August 30th, and the city reminded me of so many others I’d passed through in Greyhound rides through the American South. Yet, on the other hand it seemed different- more pristine, friendly and welcoming. The first association that entered my mind was with Birmingham, Alabama’s downtown core, where nothing seems to have been built since the 1970s and the city’s Modernist concrete office towers all bear a similar shade of dusty brown. However, in Birmingham the streets give off a distinct feeling of repressed, deep-seated anger and frustration.

The second image to enter my mind was Vegas. Years ago, I sat on a smoky North York bar patio in the late hours of the night with a beer in hand listening to a tattooed late-20s former Las Vegas resident tell stories of robbing tourists just off of the Strip in between his pulls on a blunt. There’s something about Las Vegas that frightens me, and that something goes beyond the sky-high crime rate and Stephen King’s post-apocalyptic epic “The Stand”. While we as a society may look to the space program, the Human Genome Project or the United Nations as an example of what Western thought can bring about, it seems to me that the ultimate achievement of North American consumer capitalism is more like Las Vegas.

more to come….



12
Sep
10

New interview, and Burning Man Photos 2

Well, I’ve been the feature of another journalistic piece, this time by Carleton University’s The Charlatan. Find it here.

…and more from Burning Man…

10
Sep
10

Burning Man Photos, Part 1

A blog update about Burning Man is coming soon, once things get a bit more settled down. It’s been weird launching straignt into grad-school after eight days out in the Nevada desert and the weirdest place in the continental U.S to boot, but I think I’m refreshed and more resilient than ever. In the meantime have some photos…








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