Black Rock City Street Plan Design Competition

We are accepting submissions online, and will continue to do so through the spring.  View the gallery of entries so far.

If you had a chance to design Black Rock City, what would you build?

Participatory art is what makes Burning Man such a unique and amazing event.

We founded the Black Rock City Ministry of Urban Planning with the goal of enabling people to share and discuss ideas for the spatial and geometric possibilities for Black Rock City and regional events, and to give architects and urban designers a platform to participate more directly in this process. Design competitions such as this are a familiar format in these trades, and as such, are an efficient way to get lots of ideas on the table for consideration.

In the upcoming competition, we will be inviting entrants to submit designs within three basic categories:

  • Individual design elements : boulevards, roundabouts, street lights, all of the things that are part of a city scape that can be incorporated into larger scale plans. Have an idea for a park, or a winding boulevard? Submit this as a design element.
  • Conforming city plans : these are large scale city plans that make adaptations to the existing time + named street coordinate system without altering the fundamental character of the plan. The objective with this type of plan is to make asthetic or practical improvements to what’s already in place, for example by adding pedestrian boulevards (think Las Ramblas in Barcelona).
  • Non-conforming city plans : here we explore BRC, or a regional event city, as an imagined or science fictional space, and invite people to submit radically new configurations for the city.
“I just do roundabouts Sebastian. I don’t know genetics stuff. I ju…ju…just do roundabouts. “. Image credit: Blade Runner

The output of the competition will be the Big Book of Ideas, a collection of the entries, along with public voting data and comments. This will be published online and shared with BRC city planners, as well as regional event organizers (this is an independent non-commercial effort, entrants retain copyright to their work). The submissions will also be included in an on playa exhibition with each competition cycle. Ultimately, BRC city planners will decide what gets built, as there are significant logistics and safety issues to contend with in accommodating 70,000 people in a temporary city, but the goal is to create an ongoing process for public feedback that allows the city plan to incorporate ideas, at the micro and macro level, from urban designers worldwide.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who can contribute designs to the competition?

This is an international competition open to anyone.

Q: How will winners be chosen?

All designs will be shared with BRC and regional city planners, along with voting data and public feedback. The output of the competition will be a book of designs, along with information about which design concepts are well received and why.


All designs, along with the voting data and comments, will be published and formally submitted to the Burning Man organizers (“bmorg”) for review, and will also be displayed as an art installation on the playa in 2016 (all of this data will also be shared with regional event organizers). Competition entrants agree to publish their entries under the Creative Commons license, which allows entries to be shared and adapted for non-commercial use).

The final choice of design will rest with bmorg city planners at their discretion, including the option to retain the current city plan, or to use design elements within the context of other plans.

Q: What are the technical criteria for entries?

Entries for individual design elements should conform to the following basic criteria:

  • Should be a distinct design or street plan element that is not directly dependent on other elements. Examples include a streetlight, four way intersection design template, etc.
  • Should be somewhat scale independent, so it can be resized (within reason) to fit into a larger scale plan.

Entries for city plans should conform to the following basic criteria:

  • A city plan should fit within the existing pentagonal boundaries of the event (see previous year city plans as a guideline). Conforming entries should be largely consistent with the existing ring plan, with adaptations to improve the plan in asthetic and/or practical terms. Non-conforming entries that envision radically different boundaries or grid plans will be accepted, though they will be long shots (but an interesting category of entry in their own right).
  • The Man and The Temple should be central focii of the city plan.
  • The city plan should provide a large open area or areas for art installations. while the ratio of open space and camping space should be similar to the 2015 city plan.
  • The city plan should be navigable and have a straightforward addressing or coordinate system (an important requirement for safety services so they can easily locate an address in the city)
  • Other than that, no limits or preconceptions!

Safety considerations are likely to be a important factor in the finalist stage, so emergency services can easily find and reach people in need of help. Symmetry, repeating patterns and easily understood coordinate systems will be important. (See Navigability & Efficient Use Of Space).

Competition entrants will submit a brief statement about their design and its intent, along with a black and white drawing (PNG format, maximum size 1 megabyte).

Q: What is the timeline for the competition?

We are currently accepting entries online, and will continue to do so through the spring, and are now opening up the gallery to public view and comment. The public comment phase of the project will run from now through June 30th, at which time, we will provide a copy of all designs, voting and public comment data to Black Rock City planners, as well as Burning Man regional event organizers. This will also be published as a free e-book, The Big Book of Ideas.

Q: Who is behind the competition?

The Black Rock City Ministry of Urban Planning (, which is a group of long-term burners, camp organizers and artists who want to provide artists and scientists with a platform to explore and discuss new spatial and geometric possibilities for the city. While we are not a formal part of the Burning Man organization (“bmorg”), they are aware of and supportive of the effort to collect and curate urban design concepts for potential use in BRC and regional events.

Q: Where can I register to receive updates about the competition?

We are now accepting submissions online.