Holon Temple - Scale Magazine

Holon Temple for Burning Man 2020

FR-EE has designed the Holon Temple concept for Burning Man, the annual event that brings tens of thousands of people known as Burners to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for a week-long experiment in communal living. By Aarthi Mohan

Each year the event, underpinned by the principles of civic participation, spiritual reflection, and self-expression invites a team of architects and artists to design a temple proposal where burners can gather, meditate, and reflect.

Holon Temple - Scale MagazineFR-EE’s proposal for the temple takes its inspiration from the Ancient Greek word holon, denoting an object that is both complete unto itself and an integral part of a larger system. Guided by this concept, the temple takes the form of an oblong wooden ellipsoid housing a smaller version of it that serves as an altar. The altar itself contains a smaller replica of creating a nested system of objects that invites contemplation and embodies the idea of a holon.

Holon Temple - Scale Magazine

To achieve the temple’s distinctive form, FR-EE conceived of a system of wooden trusses that bow outwards and are braced by 34 circular horizontal members—one for each year of Burning Man’s existence. The trusses culminate in the compression ring member number 35, representing 2020´s edition, which opens to the sky to let in light. Recalling the Pantheon’s oculus, the crowning compression ring incorporates millennia-old traditions of religious and spiritual architecture into the design of this contemporary temple.

Holon Temple - Scale MagazineRather than cladding the structure, the design allows the complex system of wooden trusses and rings to define the interior experience. Gaps between the structural members let in daylight, wind, and sand, resulting in a space that feels at once enclosed and intertwined with the surrounding landscape. As the structure nears the ground, the horizontal rings broaden to form benches that wrap the perimeters of the interior and invite Burners to congregate, reflect, and meditate.

Taking the shape of a circle, the temple’s plan focuses attention on the central altar and fosters a sense of gathering and community. The plan’s unique geometry also references the traditional connotations of the circle, which is a shape without a beginning or an end is considered a symbol of unity and the infinite.

In keeping with Burning Man’s tradition of leaving no trace, the temple was designed to be burned to the ground at the end of the week-long gathering. As part of this process, the design team plan to plant the number of trees required to counterbalance the amount of pollution the burning would generate.

Holon Temple - Scale MagazineHolon Temple - Scale Magazine

Team Information

Architects/joint design team: Fernando Romero EnterprisE (FR-EE), Planet Collective (PC)

Design (FR-EE): Fernando Romero

Project architect (FR-EE):   Romain Thijsen

Project coordination (FR-EE): Liliana Viveros, Hugo Vela, Daniela Gallo, Nicholas Dolan, Jean-François Goyette

The project team (FR-EE): Germán Sandoval Garduño, Pablo Morales Contreras, Alejandro Hernández Morales, Federico Serna Giraldo, Libia Castilla, Adriana Merchant, Pierre Tairouz

Project support (FR-EE): Aldo Domínguez Chávez, José Manuel Soto Álvarez, Aníbal Cárdenas Escobar, Edson Rodríguez Francisco, Armando Montiel Camarena, Jessica Valdés Huacuja, Pamela Hernández Hernández, Eduardo Hernández Morales.

Planet Collective: James Barlow, John Spetrino, Fernando Romero, Emma Schwartz, Jason Sidelko, Gerardo Broissin, Juan Carlos Quintero, Oscar Soto

Media (FR-EE): Oscar Caballero, Ariadna Chavarria

Media (PC): Juan Carlos Quintero

Renders: Juan Carlos Ramos

Video: Dave Goodall


Structural engineer: BROISSINarchitects

Structural optimization (PC): Jason Sidelko

On-Playa Construction Lead (PC): John Spetrino

Fire performance design: FKB

Burn Liaison (PC): James Barlow