Urbanism


Burning Man and the Metropolis

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January 10, 2011
It's not exactly the ideal place to build a city. No water, little vegetation, limited animal life. August temperatures climb to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and drop close to freezing at night. High winds kick up powder-fine dust into blinding storms. The place is, in a word, inhospitable.

But year after year in late summer, a small city rises on this ancient lakebed in the Black Rock Desert, in Pershing County in northwestern Nevada. It's the annual event — or festival, or party — known as Burning Man, an eight-day experiment in self-expression and self-reliance that is now one of the most notorious cultural events in North America. What began as a bonfire attended by 20 friends on a San Francisco beach in 1986 has exploded into a global mega-event with 50,000 participants.

These Chinese Buildings are Coming to a City Near You

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May 31, 2018
China's overseas building campaign is spreading Chinese-style urbanism around the globe.

A square mile of new land spreads out from the shores of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Crews are 80% through reclaiming approximately 65 million cubic meters of sand from the Indian Ocean floor.

The land will form the foundation of Port City Colombo a massive new district of high-rise office towers, luxury apartments, tree-lined canals and beachfront villas.

Adjacent to the city's central business district and a recently upgraded port, the $1.4 billion project is touted by its developers as "a world class city for South Asia."

The New Urbanscape

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January 1, 2018
UCLA’s cityLAB is working with campus partners to engineer changes in how we use physical spaces during a digital era.

For a few weeks in the spring of 2015, in a patio behind UCLA’s Broad Art Center in the northeast corner of campus, stood a new building. It wasn’t a classroom or a lecture hall. It was a house.

Urbanist Thinking at the Temporary Metropolis of Burning Man

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September 6, 2010
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.

Inside the City of RVs

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March 15, 2010
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.

I've written a profile of this place, Quartzsite, Arizona, for the latest issue of High Country News. You can read the piece and view a related photo gallery (with infographics).