It's Halloween time again, the day when dressing up in silly costumes is required of every conscionable person. Some opt for the scary ghost or the sexy nurse, but others, more thoughtful others, make more of this opportunity.
It's already disappearing. The temporary city that forms during the annual Burning Man event is fading away, as the tens of thousands of people who traveled out to live in the desert of northwestern Nevada for the past week have filed out of the void and returned back to the rest of the world. The event's organizers and volunteers are still erasing the traces of the event, from demolishing structures to removing fencing to picking up trash. Within another week or so, the entire city will have disappeared.
It's an interesting way for a city to exist -- just a few weeks at a time, once a year. But it's been working for Burning Man and Black Rock City, the name of that temporary city that forms and disbands almost as soon as it comes to full life. On top of what's already a unique experiment in citymaking, the theme of this year's event was Metropolis, which spurred the tens of thousands of people and artists who make up the city to think a little more about how their "party in the desert" is actually a little city and community (the fourth largest city in Nevada during its run), and how it relates to their world beyond the desert.
You really need to almost get hit by a car to feel like a true Johannesburg pedestrian. That's the way it goes here. A huge, sprawling greater metropolitan area of about 10 million people covering more than 600 square miles, the city is built for the car. And if you're not in one, good luck.
A couple weeks back I went out to visit one of the strangest places I've ever been. It's a pocket of the Southwest that's become notorious in the world of recreational vehicle drivers. A million or more of them visit every year, creating a temporary metropolis of RVs out in the desert. They park in RV lots, on streets, and -- in vast quantities -- out in the desert on open land provided by the Bureau of Land Management. It's not just numbers that makes this place unique. It's the community that forms.
The Winter Olympics will begin later this week in Vancouver, British Columbia. Like other hosts of such large-scale sporting events, the city has been getting ready for the international spotlight for many years. To hear more about what's been going on in the city in terms of urban planning, I interviewed Vancouver Planning Director Brent Toderian, and you can read a transcript of that Q&A on Places.
Hey, Las Vegas. Good to see you! Tough break about all those foreclosures... But, hey, I hear you've got a new mega project opening up. That's cool! I bet those other broke cities are super jealous. Yeah, this new project's gonna bring you back to glory, eh? Oh, what's that? What did you just call it? CityCenter? The Capital of the New World? An urban community?
Let me stop you right there.
A recent event organized by Good Magazine, Sheridan/Hawkes Collaborative and The Public Studio brought together about 30 civic-minded designers, planners and architects to come up with some ways to improve the urban environment of Los Angeles. It was a big question to tackle in one afternoon, with a huge array of possible solutions. The crowd was split up into five separate groups and surprisingly, each came up with a similar answer: taco trucks. OK, not taco trucks specifically, but the essence of taco trucks and what they bring to the city.
You don't know how you get there, but you're there. And you can't leave. You're a prisoner among hundreds of other prisoners, but you're the only one who knows it. Or at least you think you know it. Are you really still a prisoner if you forget you're being held against your will? Existentialism aside, what if it's your environment that's taking away your sense of individualism?
It's almost Halloween, and that means it's time to celebrate America's most important holiday by dressing up in a silly costume. But what's that? Tired of culturally relevant costumes? Don't want the general public to have any idea what you are? Prefer a drawn-out, interest-losing explanation of an obscure and wonky costume concept? Then you're in luck, because I happily present the second edition list of the best urban planning costume ideas.