Burning Down the House

Burning Man's radiant 2020 temple is revealed

Empyrean will be the official temple of Burning Man 2020, which begins August 30th. (Renzo Verbeck and Sylvia Adrienne Lisse)

This year, Burning Man will be getting an eight-pointed star structure called Empyrean as their official temple. Designed by architect and artist Laurence “Renzo” Verbeck and artist Sylvia Adrienne Lisse, who met while working on the 2019 temple, Empyrean will take a central role in Black Rock City, reaching 70 feet tall and spanning a diameter of 200 feet.

The Burning Man journal wrote the project was selected for its “lovely geometry and inclusive design,” though it is not immediately clear what “inclusive” might mean in this context. The structure will feature eight wooden canopies arranged like the spokes of the wheel ,which start off solid on the ground and are cut with tessellated patterns towards the top to allow sunlight in. Within the triangular canopies will be spaces for offerings.

Along the way, visitors will pass under “saffron-colored” fabrics. They can also write prayers on “Empyrean Flags” which will be hoisted up. According to the temple’s Kickstarter, after giving the prayers to the wind they will be burned alongside the entire structure.

A top-down render of a Burning Man temple arranged as an eight-pointed star, glowing in the center.

Empyrean is arranged as an eight-pointed star, a symbol which the creators said represents “Hope, abundance, transformation, direction, justice, balance of duality, and harmony between the profound and mundane.” (Renzo Verbeck and Sylvia Adrienne Lisse)

Multiple entrances will lead to a central gathering space. Above this atrium will be a wooden structure containing the “flame,” which is meant to be visible from across the Playa (for everyone’s safety, the flame is not real, just an electric simulation). As Lisse told Burning Man’s journal: “The Temple is a subtle and humble beacon that radiates at an indescribable magnitude.”

According to Verbeck and Lisse, the eight-pointed star is a “symbol brought forward from our early human understanding of the intelligent order that underlies our universe” that has “represented hope, abundance, transformation, direction, justice, balance of duality, and harmony between the profound and mundane.” The geometric arrangement “activates the temple as a transformative healing portal” for Burners while the pointsdisgorge their energy skyward.”

Visitors can enter and exit from any point, all passing through the physical and spiritual center of the temple. This multidimensional experience is meant to resonate with Burning Man’s 2020 “Multiverse” theme which “explores the quantum kaleidoscope of possibility, the infinite realities of the multiverse, and our own superpositioning as actors and observers in the cosmic Cacophony of resonant strings” and invites attendees to investigate if their realities will be “augmented, bifurcated, or omnidimensional?” As the official website notes: “Only time will tell. Or has told. Or is telling.”

The temple’s title is derived from the theological term which denotes the pinnacle of heaven, in most cosmologies to which it is applied, home to the fire element. While Burning Man has provided $100,000 in funding, the creators are seeking an additional $100,000 to realize the project.

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