The Road to Black Rock City: A Visual for Our Year-round Journey to the Playa

The countdown to Black Rock City is on, and you’re most likely dusting off your gear for another year out there. We are too! For lots of teams, 2023 playa prep started in the moments after the Temple Burn last year (and in many ways, long before that). Black Rock City is, after all, a city — and while some might proclaim all we do is “put out a few portapotties,” turns out there’s a littttttle more to it to make our ephemeral city rise each year. 

This is a post in our 2023 Back to Black Rock City series — covering a spread of topics we hope get you excited as you prep to head back to the dust.

So, we decided to make an infographic telling some of the story of what it takes, start to finish, to build the groundwork for our beloved metropolis from the dust then make it completely disappear, and the teams that make it all happen. A relatively small number of people plan, organize, and take action to set the stage for our temporary home in the desert — complete with Emergency Services, Department of Public Works, Placement for 80,000 humans, a DMV (Department of Mutant Vehicles), Art team, Black Rock Rangers, Government Affairs, Ticketing, the Technology and expertise to support all of them… the list goes on and on. 

Before you say it: no, not every single piece of work is on this infographic. Far from it! Not to mention, it doesn’t show the endless things theme camps, mutant vehicle owners, artists, and individual participants bring that truly give life to Black Rock City. We would have had to make some infinite scroll, Choose Your Own Adventure, Magic 8 Ball visual in order to accomplish that… And while Burners ARE in the habit of creating the impossible, we had to draw a line somewhere. We did our best to make sure every official team directly connected to BRC is represented and their key moments are celebrated. If you want a true deep dive from all of the teams involved in building Black Rock City, check out the AfterBurn Reports. Going strong since 2001, these annual retrospectives offer detailed reports on what went well, what didn’t work, lessons learned, and everything in between.

Of course, even though this focuses on the practicalities of building BRC, Burning Man is not a place; it’s a culture, a community, and for some, it’s a way of life. Every staff member (year-round, seasonal, and volunteer) and every participant brings something essential to our city. Beyond the infrastructure, we collectively create a place for people to become themselves, a space to heal, a chance to create community. We experience every emotion, do all the things, and it’s definitely not easy. It’s amazing, and it sucks. It’s life-changing, and it’s exhausting. It’s beautiful chaos. It’s Home.

“This may be the essential genius of Burning Man: Out of nothing, we created everything.”

-Larry Harvey

*And let’s be clear, the people who take care of BRC’s portapotties? Heroes.

Timeline graphic: “The Road to Black Rock City,” 2023 (Graphic design by Deets Shay, copy by Leslie Moyer)

Header image of Black Rock City, 2017 (Photo by Robert Bruce Anderson)

About the author: Deets Shay

Deets Shay

Deets Shay is on Burning Man Project’s Communications team, overseeing social media content strategy and execution, in addition to leading print production projects. She attended her first Burn in 2012, when she quickly realized she identified with the culture, and has been going back almost every year since. Prior to joining Burning Man Project’s year-round staff, Deets volunteered for the Department of Mutant Vehicles, where she helped process Mutant Vehicle applications before the Burn, and approved vehicle licensing on playa. You can generally find her hanging out with her amazing wife Ginger Snap, their Corgi, Mini Waffles, and Shiba Inu, Jinkx.

3 Comments on “The Road to Black Rock City: A Visual for Our Year-round Journey to the Playa

  • Robyn says:

    Interesting article. Thank you to the thousands of volunteers who work round the year to make this happen!

    Report comment

  • pearlsnaps says:

    I am going to print this out on the plotter at work and hang it in our workspace so the whole crew knows why it is they get emails from me ‘so soon?’ LOL

    Report comment

  • Jonesy says:

    This is a great article. I wish more people would realize the incredible amount of work that goes behind the scenes to create BRC. A thousand thanks to you all. Burning Man has become so deeply meaningful to me.

    Report comment

  • Comments are closed.