A blog series that peers through the unique lens of Black Rock City to explore urban planning and design, the nature of cities, and their impact on community and culture.

This blog series was published in 2010.


Welcome to Metropol – The Life of Cities, by Larry Harvey
Burning Man Director Larry Harvey introduces the Metropol blog series, and invites your participation in the discussion.



Designing Black Rock City, by Rod Garrett
Rod Garrett, Burning Man’s city designer, describes the thinking behind the Black Rock City Plan, and the forces that have impacted its evolution throughout the years.

The City of Burning Man, by Rod Garrett
Black Rock City — like any other major metropolis — is a living, breathing organism whose vitality is dependent as much on the cooperation of its inhabitants as the stability of its infrastructure.

Creating the Center Camp Café, by Rod Garrett
All vibrant cities boast a central gathering space where people can meet, connect, interact and share. Black Rock City’s community hub is the Center Camp Café. How did it come about? How was it designed to withstand the rigors of the harsh desert environment, while still functioning as a welcoming space?

Managing Diversity: The Zoning of Black Rock City, by Harley K. DuBois
While the intent of placement and zoning is to provide the citizens of Black Rock City with an amazing experience, zoning is also used to help facilitate harmony amongst divergent interests within the city.

The Man Base: Where Function Meets Artistry, by Rod Garrett (introduction by Will Chase)
When necessity meets with artistic inspiration, banal functionality is elevated beyond its original purpose, taking on altogether new forms. Rod Garrett explores the history of the Burning Man’s pedestal.



The Black Rock Rangers – Part 1 (Origins), by Danger Ranger
As Burning Man’s non-confrontational mediating agency, The Black Rock Rangers help resolve disputes within our community, and bridge the gap between the ethos and the culture of our citizens and the needs and responsibilities of law enforcement. And it didn’t start how you might think …

Lamplighters: Ritualizing Functional Necessity, by Steve Mobia
One of Black Rock City’s unique traits is how its civic services are transformed into ritual through the application of creative expression. The Lamplighters’ service to the community – preparing and hanging the kerosene lamps that illuminate Black Rock City each night – was steeped in ritual since its inception.

The Department of Mutant Vehicles, by Wally “Odwally” Bomgaars
Burning Man’s DMV has arguably one of the toughest jobs on playa: telling people they can’t bring their art to Burning Man. Yet their work is invaluable to keeping Black Rock City visually stunning, and its citizens safe. Odwally talks about the history of the DMV.

Placing Art in Black Rock City, by Christine “Ladybee” Kristen
Integrating hundreds of art installations into the layout of Black Rock City is a challenging task which has evolved over the years from very little management back in the mid-90’s, when art was scarce, to a complex system that accommodates all art installations on the open playa and in the city infrastructure.



Road Tripped, by Tony “Coyote” Perez
Black Rock City’s long-time City Manager remembers back to when he first set foot on playa, and contemplates the essentials of urban design, community, and … cows.

The Street As An Urban Social Space, by Steven Young
Whether in Spain, China, Greece or Black Rock City, streets are connectors, not only between places but between people. It is where we meet and it is where we act out our lives as social beings and communities.

The Temple: Sacred Heart of Black Rock City, by Lee Gilmore
Great cities contain spiritual and ritual centers – physical manifestations of the human quest for the transcendent and magisterial. For Black Rock City, that heart is perhaps best identified with the annual Temples – each an ephemeral locus of memory and mourning.

Fire in the Heart of Black Rock City, by Lily Rasel
Black Rock City presents a unique opportunity to make the fire arts an integral part of a civic community, and the result is a culture that coalesces around the warmth of the flames, as our ancient ancestors did around the campfire.

Theme Camps – Why and How!, by Affinity Mingle
Whether it’s a bondage camp, a dance camp, or Kidsville, Theme Camps are arguably the cultural lifeblood of Black Rock City. What is a Theme Camp? How are they organized and managed? Affinity goes to the source — the camp organizers — to find out.

Theme Camps – Encouraging Participation, Contribution & Consensus, by Affinity Mingle
In these interviews, Theme Camp organizers respond to questions about how they encourage participation and contribution, and whether they create consensus out of conflict within their camps, providing an interesting study in micro-community development.

Theme Camps – How Do They “Leave No Trace”?, by Affinity Mingle
We asked a wide variety of Theme Camp organizers how they Leave No Trace, helping make Burning Man the largest Leave No Trace event in the world, and a model for events everywhere.

Clock Town, by Tony “Coyote” Perez
Coyote remembers back to the Black Rock City of 1996 … when one could just start to detect the spine and budding limbs of hazy districts, showing all the promise to one day be streets and neighborhoods.

Raising the Man, by Dan Miller
When we raise the Man, we also raise ourselves. Dan Miller, who managed the construction and raising of the Man from 1990 to 2000, tells about the early years, and how an act of inspired radical self-expression evolved into a powerful expression of community.

The Bike Culture of Black Rock City, by Matt Roth
Black Rock City has a singular bike culture, wherein whimsy trumps utility, and getting to the destination is less important than preening like a peacock along the way (a twelve-foot tall fire-spewing peacock, of course). What would it take to bring this culture into the real world?



Changing Environmental Consciousness Through Urban Planning
by Will Chase

How do you change the collective consciousness of a city’s population? Jaime Lerner talks about revolutionizing bus transit and awakening green consciousness in a populace accustomed to litter and blight … by re-inventing urban space in his native Curitiba, Brazil.

From BRC to Kenya: Geomapping Solutions, by Andrew Johnstone
Black Rock City provides an ideal Petri dish for technological experiments in geographic data and digital inter-connection. The result is technologies with real-world applications for disaster relief and urban planning. And it’s happening today.

Running In Great Cities, by Reverend Billy Talen
Urban public space is spotted with the reverse gravity of pernicious emotional traps, affecting the basic psychological rhythm of our great capitals. Anti-consumerist preacher Reverend Billy Talen jogs through Amsterdam … and cannot make it through unscathed.

Public Art in a Fluid Space, by Leslie Pritchett
The freedom afforded at Burning Man to express oneself openly, fully and completely, illustrates the collective creativity possible when the social contract is rewritten to be broad, expansive and inclusive.

Black Rock City, the TAZ and the Rise of Great Civilizations, by John Mosbaugh
Is it not possible that not only pondering the concepts Temporary Autonomy but also looking forward to the possibilities of building something less impermanent, can do anything but serve to create a discourse that might in turn make the entire experiment of Burning Man stronger?

Vertical Camp: Creative Urbanism, by Tyronus
Black Rock City provides several different neighborhood environments – from the dense, packed activity of Center Camp and the Esplanade to the comparatively suburban corner of 8:30 and H. Along the way, the structures can be incredible feats of temporary engineering. Vertical Camp is one such example.