A utopian city of 70,000 inhabitants that materializes for a few days a year in the middle of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. A competition of ideas to draw its evolution or to create a whole new one.
In this work two projects have been developed, corresponding to the requests of the international competition announced by the BRC authorities (Black Rock City). These two design ideas have followed two different but parallel roadmap: the first is based on a technical analysis and on an engineering process to identify problems and related solutions; the second one, through the architecture, has tried to design the city according to the needs of its inhabitants. This study has therefore re-emerged a duality that has lasted for centuries, that between engineering and architecture, but not only by making a simple comparison between these two entities but showing how they can actually be intertwined.
Engineering has not only had the role of "repairer", "improvement", and therefore a "technical / mechanical" role to elaborate a technically valid project, but it has been supported by an analytical and mostly historical study. It is evident that the evolutionary genesis of the planimetry and the theories behind the term "utopia", typical of a thought closer to architecture, have influenced the design choices choosen and then analyzed through the engineering process. A fundamental step for the analysis was the introduction of the tool DepthmapX, a software that allows me to read the space through spatial syntax (space syntax). The final project, in fact, shows an optimal spatial integration that must be at the base of a city where the only mode of transport are at most bicycles or floats (cars are banned) and most people move by foot.
Architecture, on the other hand, has erased everything that was previously there. It went to analyze the inhabitants of the city: their needs, attitudes and the spirit with whom they want to experience the festival. Four principles were then identified on which to base the planimetry modeling: Inclusion, Leaving no-trace, Civic Responsibility e Radical Self-Reliance. From the inclusion the dual centrality, spiritual and organizational, has been outlined, which has allowed to hierarchize and classify the routes according to needs and activities: all the organizational routes lead to the center camp while the spiritual ways to the statue of Burning Man. Leaving No-trace and Civic Responsibility led to a study on the recovery and production of clean energy. Around the city a system of concentric tracks is built around which, during the days of the festival, recovered freight trains run on them: the wagons are assigned to artists with the intent of creating spaces for meditation. Between trains, others run with solar panels and batteries for energy storage are installed. This energy will be used by the city as soon as night falls. Finally, on the Radical Self-Reliance, perhaps the most important principle of the festival, the zoning of the city is based. "Find your attitude and choose how to live it". The city is divided into quadrants: if you want to live in a silent, meditative way there are two Spiritual villages, far from the confusion and close to the Temples, to the trains; from here the lights, the sounds, the music, the chaos are increasing, first with the Vision areas, divided between Vision Silenced, where the artistic works and colors are predominant, and Vision Sound, a noisier version of the previous one, and finally the Sound areas, where chaos and music are the masters especially in the two areas for concerts at the bounderies of the city.
Once the two projects were completed, a comparison analysis was performed in order to understand how divergent the two solutions are. The main tool was DepthmapX with which the necessary documents were prepared for comparison. It is therefore to underline the fact that this program can not only be used for the design or correction of errors but also for a final check. The analysis focused mainly on the differences: the distribution of the spaces, the centralities, the dimensions, the center camp, the borders and the access gates.
As a final result we have two projects that are based on different ideas, which have been generated with unique and independent procedures, but that are very close to the final quality. This means that two “design tools”, such as architecture and engineering, if influenced by preparatory processes maybe not completely inherent to their areas, the sociology for the first and the genesis process for the second, can produce valid projects for one and for the other, reciprocally.
So is it engineering or architecture? To answer this question, to understand this camouflage of these two "materials" in the masonry works I refer to Jim Eyre's answer: "yes". We must not ask whether it is architecture or engineering, because in the end what matters is the project itself and this can be an architecturally valid engineering project or an architecturally valid engineering project. After all, Brunelleschi's dome was an unreachable engineering work with a splendid architectural example.