Showing Promise

alamedaApril picked me up from West Oakland BART in a little blue coupe with a white racing stripe. As we sped off into the sunshine toward Alameda, excitement crackled in the air around her as she described the opening weeks of working on the Temple of Promise.

I was fired up, too. The Temple is immensely important to me, but I’d never been to a build site for one before. I’d never seen one come together from the very beginning.

The beginning is definitely where we’re at with the Temple of Promise. April led me through the inviting wooden cavern of the Alameda warehouse where most of the structure’s components will be formed, and there, leaning against a wall towards the back, was a single arch.

Arch, with April for scale
Arch, with April for scale

There’s a lot to learn about this temple from this one arch, mind you. This one, the first to be built, is the third from the end of the temple’s gently spiraled tail. That is, it’s the third smallest, and it’s 8’6” tall. So there’s your sense of scale; the Temple of Promise will have 17 primary and 19 secondary arches, culminating in the copper cowl that will tower 97 feet above the playa. (The Man is always taller than the Temple, you know.)

The other noteworthy thing about this seemingly humble arch is that it was built in four hours. By one person. The design is simple but ingenious. It’s hollow, so it’ll burn like the dickens, but it’s made of few pieces that slide together. The ribbing is strong enough for burly crew members to hang from it without bending. This thing is going to come together quickly and stay together until the fire takes it apart.

The Alameda warehouse
The Alameda warehouse

They know what they’re doing. Team members have worked on the Man, the Temples of Whollyness and Flux, and mighty standalone playa pieces like Anubis, the Trojan Horse and the Alien Siege Machine.

They’re also working in proven Temple territory. The Temple of Whollyness/Otic Oasis crew build in the same warehouse. “We love the fact that we’re in previous Temple space,” April says. That crew has helped them with everything from their build plans to their camp layout.

And yet, this is an underdog team. This is lead artist/designer Jazz Tigan’s first project! A Temple! This explains why the form is so daring while the work is so tight. There’s the right balance of craziness and pedigree here.

On the way back to BART, April and I swung by the legendary American Steel Studios, where the metalwork is underway for the weeping willows in the temple’s grove. I can’t believe the way this crew is breathing life into these inert materials. I’m looking forward to seeing how the seeds have sprouted on my next visit.


Support Your Temple!

The Temple of Promise is marching towards its fundraising goal on Indiegogo, and they need your help to get there. Each year, the Temple crew gets a large grant from Burning Man, but they raise money and support from the community in order to cover all the costs of such a tremendous undertaking. Donate to support the Temple of Promise today!

If you want to help out with the Temple in other ways, check out the Get Involved page of their website. There’s plenty of skilled and unskilled work left to do to bring this Temple to life.

About the author: Jon Mitchell

Jon Mitchell

, a.k.a. Argus, was publisher of the Burning Man Journal, the Jackrabbit Speaks newsletter, and the Burning Man website from 2016 to 2019. He joined the Comm Team as a volunteer in 2010 and as year-round staff in 2014. He co-wrote a big story about spending 24 hours at the Temple of Juno in 2012. His first Burn was in 2008.

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