Next month, we’re presenting Golden Cage at the World Architecture Festival in Amsterdam. We designed the pavilion-like sculptural structure for Burning Man. It is rich and lyrical in its symbolism in response to Burning Man’s 2019 theme of Metamorphoses. Five concepts are interwoven to create the central structure, loosely based on Ovid’s tales.
The aim has been to create something expressive of the nature of transformation and its associated mystery and ambiguity. We welcome the idiosyncrasies afforded by these qualities and believe that they are essential to art and perhaps little understood by contemporary architects. Yet the idiosyncratic, the personal, the extraordinary are what give life meaning and make us human.
Burning Man has grown to such an extent over the years that it can be described as a city. Caveat Magister’s book title suggests this clearly: The Scene That Became Cities. A book that suggests that Burning Man addresses something essential that is missing in our lives, something that brings us together, makes us feel compassionate and thus human; and allows us to discover a sense of awe and purpose free of conventional notions of usefulness and success. A way of being that is less about rules and more about shared principles or values. This sort of thinking is at the heart of making a strong and thriving community and it is something architects and designers should be more attuned to – particularly in how they conceive a sense of place.
We are involved in workshops—through the AIA, at Esalen and internationally—addressing some of these concerns and thinking on the possibilities that come with communities that are envisioned from within. Our question to ourselves is: “What if we built a community based on participatory art and the fundamental principles of Burning Man?”
We’re interested in a range of experience and appreciation that is about inclusion instead of exclusion. As around the world, we are seeing politically and economically increasingly divided communities, we feel the role of culture in bringing people together is vital for our well-being, our sense of belonging. In this way, culture is an important glue that makes us resilient and, yes, more human.