The Galaxia Temple was a temporary spiritual and secular timber structure, built as the centrepiece of the 2018 Burning Man Festival in the Black Rock desert -- where some structures are ceremonially burnt at the end of the festival. It is the largest of the projects Mamou-Mani has made, which explore geometrical systems generated through digital drawing and fabrication, testing and combining them with analogue fabrication and new craft skills; considering how these may be scaled up for architectural purposes - and which also reconceive the funding, making and using of architecture in contemporary societies.
The project draws on the history of lightweight experimental structures, particularly Buckminster Fuller; on Mamou-Mani’s practice in innovatory lightweight and temporary structures, and on his work with Toby Burgess teaching Design Studio 10, in which over eight 6 years, Masters students competed to design, collectively built a total of 6 smaller Burning Man structures, sometimes crowdfunding the projects as part of their work. Galaxia itself was funded by the Burning Man organization and its community as well as Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin.
The building’s spiralling geometry was developed in 2013 as part of a design for Virgin Galactic’s hotel. It was ‘grown’ in the computer through recursion. For Galaxia, the project was rationalised into a series of curving, triangular trusses made of dimensional 2*4’’ and 4*4’’ timber folded as origami modules held together with ratchet straps. It was built by a team of 140 volunteers; with a central chandelier made of 3D printed bioplastic Mandala hanging from the central oculus and generated with our open-source plugin Silkworm. Galaxia was conceived as non-prescriptive open, celebratory space for joys and griefs; while each module could also accommodate a single person, privately writing. During the festival it was used for mourning and celebratory functions including a concert for the Burning Man founder Larry Harvey who deceased that year and the designer’s own wedding, before being burned to ashes in front of the 70,000 “citizens” of Black Rock City.
The Temple was covered on CNN, Dezeen, Forbes and was part of an Instagram post by Burning Man that received more than 250,000 likes at the end of the event. It’s the biggest (60m diameter 20m high), most heavily used and well publicised of Mamou-Mani’s structures, which aim to offer alternatives to conventional architectural building in both structure and use.