Lonely Planet Writer

Twisting temple unveiled for this year's flames at Burning Man festival

The design for this year’s Burning Man festival’s main temple has been revealed, and it’s called Galaxia and has been designed by London-based architectural firm, Mamou-Mani Architects. The spiralling wooden pavilion is destined to be sent up in flames in the Nevada desert later this year, at the end of the annual nine-day extravaganza. Each year, the temple forms a focal point in Black Rock City, the ephemeral town that exists for only one week each year for the purpose of the festival.

The design for the Burning Man festival temple “Galaxia” has been unveiled. Image: Mamou-Mani Architects

This year’s theme is “I, Robot” and the design of the burning temple is by Arthur Mamou-Mani. Arthur, who is originally from Paris, spoke to Lonely Planet about how he felt when his design was selected. “I was overjoyed but very humbled,” he says. “I know the task ahead is gigantic, from putting a very large team together to developing the design with as little timber as possible to make it safe and beautiful. This project is a very important part of the Burning Man community, so we have a responsibility to deliver a special place for them. This being said, I could not be happier and more excited by the process ahead.”

The design for the Burning Man festival temple “Galaxia” has been unveiled. Image: Mamou-Mani Architects

Galaxia will be formed of 20 timber trusses that spiral up and form a tower as they converge. They will create different paths into the centre of the pavilion, where a giant 3D-printed mandala will be placed.  The temple is a gathering spot for those seeking solace and respite during the festival, and when it opens, it’s a clean slate. By the end of the event, every inch is covered with photos, inscriptions, art, small mementos and even the ashes of loved ones left by participants. Many find catharsis there, and on the Sunday night of the event, the temple is burned in silence with thousands of participants as witnesses.

The design for the Burning Man festival temple “Galaxia” has been unveiled. Image: Mamou-Mani Architects

Arthur describes Galaxia as celebrating “hope in the unknown, stars, planets, black holes, and the movement uniting us in swirling galaxies of dreams.” “Galaxia’s design is an evolution of a previous design that we did for Virgin Galactic’s Astronaut hotel next to the spaceport in New Mexico,” he says.

“The Galactic project was a thin layer of steel structure and zinc panels, whereas Galaxia is all timber and has deep passageways forming alcoves on the outside for people to write on. The act of producing the concept was fairly short – only a couple of days – but it is infused over the course of five years with experiences at Burning Man and all our other projects. What matters now is the design development to make it real, which will take a long time and will involve a huge team.”

The design for the Burning Man festival temple “Galaxia” has been unveiled. Image: Mamou-Mani Architects

Burning Man 2018 will take place from 26 August to 3 September in Reno, Nevada. For further information, see here.