Introducing Your 2023 Temple: Temple of the Heart

It’s been three years since Burning Man Project announced a new physical Temple, so we are extremely excited to kick off the new year by presenting Temple of the Heart by Ela Madej with Co-lead, Reed Finlay.

The Selection Process

Selecting the Temple for Black Rock City is a uniquely challenging decision. We look for a design with a strong visual impact that can serve as a meaningful space to hold the full range of our community’s experiences and offerings. 

There are both conceptual and practical considerations. Is the Temple creative and beautiful enough to be an artwork in and of itself, but simple enough that it doesn’t get in the way or dictate an experience? Will it burn well, and safely? Have the applicants planned for LNT, and considered sustainability in their design and execution?

The lead artists are also a key consideration in the decision-making process. Because the Temple is such an important and meaningful space, we need to be sure we select someone motivated by the right reasons. 

With all this in mind, we are delighted to have selected Temple of the Heart! Design-wise, we appreciate that it will be relatively modest in scale. The space allows for many offerings from the community without pushing to be bigger than ever — a key consideration as we balance tradition and environmental sustainability. 

We always look for a design that allows unskilled volunteers to make meaningful creative contributions. Temple of the Heart’s central altar will allow for people without build experience to participate in a significant way. 

The selection committee is thrilled to have a woman as the Lead Artist for this year’s Temple. The feminine aesthetic and exquisite floral motifs found throughout the structure will be beautiful elements, both up close and from across the playa, day and night. Ela and Reed are putting their own hearts and impressive skills into this aptly-named Temple.

We hope you are as inspired as we are by our 2023 Temple!

The Design

Temple of the Heart is designed to look like an upside-down desert flower with a stem reaching up into the sky, serving as both a beacon as well as a sundial. It creates a feeling of being near a heart, wrapped in love for those who seek solace and respite. At night it will glow with soft, warm, welcoming light.

Sketch by Ela Madej
Polish lace inspiration (Photo by Somadlyinlove)

The structure is based on a 12-star base; the central gathering space is the Heart Chamber. Traditional floral lace patterns from Eastern Europe — inspired by Ela’s Polish heritage — will be used on the ceiling panels.

The center of the Heart Chamber features the Rose Altar, a prominent decorative element that will be back-lit to emit a soft glow. It will include approximately 100 large and medium-sized roses and hundreds of smaller flowers created by Temple volunteers and community members. The Altar is situated on a star-shaped elevation that connects all the way up to an external spire that represents the stem, sending the energy of the space upwards. 

Design rendering of the interior of the Heart Chamber by Ela Madej and Reed Finlay

Hugging the Heart Chamber is a walled-off Outer Ring with an additional 12 alcoves with built-in seating. This space will inspire walking reflection and satisfy a need for movement, so the Heart Chamber can hold space for stillness. 

The four entrances are surrounded by an ornamental fence with corresponding gates to create a courtyard surrounding the main structure. Each gate will be crowned with additional wooden roses.

The Lead Artists

Ela Madej (whose playa name is “Light”) is the Lead Artist behind Temple of the Heart. Originally from Kraków, Poland, she moved to the US in her mid-twenties and now lives in San Francisco. Her first Burn was in 2012, and she hasn’t missed one since. In 2016, she joined a sustainability-focused theme camp, Hotel California. As one of their “Monkeys,” she is involved with most build jobs that involve heights that scare other builders. In her professional life, she is focused on creating positive social and environmental impact. As a mother and someone who often metaphorically holds space for others, Ela was moved by the idea of creating a vessel that can physically hold space for thousands of people and hopefully help them feel loved and accepted.

Ela says, “In bringing this Temple to the playa, we want to experiment with how much of our hearts we can insert into Her in the next eight months. This is going to be a beautiful process and hopefully a life-changing experience for those who get involved.”

Reed Finlay is the Co-lead behind the Temple. Residing in Ojai, California, Reed is a designer of spaces for spiritual health and transformation. He was inspired to co-create Temple of the Heart with Ela after hearing about her vision of bringing a feminine Temple to Black Rock City and seeing her early sketches. What followed was a powerful collaboration: Reed’s expertise in temple design and sustainability led to a structure that is not just beautiful and powerful but also buildable, ecological, and safe. 

“The Burning Man Temple is the most remarkable place for deep sharing, grieving and celebration,” Reed says, “and we feel a great responsibility to provide a space that respects those profound experiences.”

Ela has already assembled a team of highly skilled builders with extensive experience in building previous Temples. Tree J, one of the most experienced woodworkers in Burning Man’s artist community and a founder of the Temple Builders Guild, is the Build Lead for the Temple of the Heart. Nonstop Symon is the LNT Lead and Ajesh Shah will be the Volunteer Coordinator. Others who have committed to supporting the project include Steve Brummond, 2017 Temple co-artist and architect, and many other skilled builders with experience in Black Rock City. Finally, Ela’s crew from Hotel California is committed to supporting all stages of the project and are donating camp resources and their custom solar infrastructure to the Temple. 

Design rendering aerial view of the Temple of the Heart by Ela Madej and Reed Finlay

How You Can Get Involved

Building the Black Rock City Temple takes a vast community of individuals who are dedicated to creating a space for thousands of participants to have meaningful experiences.

Do you think you want to be on the Temple Crew? Ela and Reed welcome experienced builders as well as those looking to learn. If you would like to help, please fill out the form linked on Temple of the Heart’s website.

Another key way in which the Temple Crew plans to involve the community is through the flowers incorporated into the design. They are looking for contributors to send their wooden flowers, which will be added to the composition in the Rose Altar and used to decorate the gates. With these flowers, contributors may also send a letter or photograph to be added to the Temple offerings. 

The Temple Grant only covers a portion of the total expenses. The Temple belongs to all of us, and it takes many donations, large or small, to help it become a reality. You are invited to donate now through the Temple of the Heart website, or look for the Kickstarter campaign scheduled to launch in mid-February.

(Cover image is a design rendering of the Temple of the Heart by Ela Madej and Reed Finlay)

About the author: Katie Hazard and spec Guy

Katie Hazard and spec Guy

Katie Hazard (yes that’s her real last name) is the Associate Director of Art Management for Burning Man. She leads the selection, placement, and installation of over 400 artworks annually in Black Rock City and beyond. She’s been passionate about arts administration and grants management for many years; she has a degree in Art History from the University of Notre Dame, worked at the Art Institute of Chicago, and spent 10 years at Harvard University as a Senior Grants Manager. Katie’s first year on playa was 2000, and she volunteered for 10 years (DMV, Man Base Lighting, art build crews, theme camp organization, Fire Conclave) before joining the staff in 2013. Katie is also a certified yoga teacher and has been a practitioner of Buddhist meditation for more than a decade. | Spec Guy is an Art Management Specialist with Burning Man Project's Art team. In this role, she administers the Honoraria and Temple grant programs, acts as a liaison for selected art projects, manages the ARTerians, and does placement for all art projects. Her superpower is the ability to work through the inherent conflict between the creative process, while executing the organization and strategy required to complete a project.

37 Comments on “Introducing Your 2023 Temple: Temple of the Heart

  • Dale Weber says:

    This design is beautiful, can’t wait to experience it! I like how the ceiling is open to the heavens.

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  • Jameson Hubbs says:

    Wow, this looks incredible! Love those renderings

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  • Geordie Van Der Bosch says:

    Congratulations and good luck Ela!

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  • Glitter Kitty says:

    It’s beautiful – congratulations! <3

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  • Slackjaw says:

    Beautiful. Needs more shade, it’s been real hot out there.

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  • Anna says:

    So exciting with a girl from Kraków being the lead temple artist!
    Nice to see somebody from my home country.
    Can’t wait for this year, love the art theme Animalia and love the name of the temple….Temple of the Heart.
    LOVE everything about Burning Man! Thank You to everyone that participates and makes this event possible.

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  • Roger says:

    Delicate, beautiful, elegant. I hope it doesn’t take too much out of the builders who bring us this gift.
    Look forward to the GoFundMe and other pathways to supporting being posted as well.

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  • Ulan McKnight says:

    I am super happy about this selection!!! Congratulations all around.

    I am also here to hold Burning Man accountable to their anti-racism pledge and would like SOMETHING to be said about how BIPOC people are going to be radically included in this process.

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    • Adam Balm says:

      This is leaving me confused. What happened to “Radical Self Reliance”, “Radical Inclusion” and even “Participation” from the 10 principals. There are lots of examples of BIPOC inclusion. You just have to step forward and make some effort yourself. I was fortunate enough last year to be Burn Lead on the Solar Shrine, from Chicago and very apply led by a person of color. There are more examples but show some self Reliance and look. If you are going to sit back and demand inclusion from others, I suspect that will be a slow process.

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  • This is unbelievably cool!!!!

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  • Raspa says:

    Such a beautiful, thoughtful and lovely design! I am excited and moved by how much heart this team is already putting into the creation of Temple of the Heart. ♥️

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  • Voo-Doo says:

    Beautiful. )'(

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  • Alaia Keith says:

    Great theme! Especially with how divided this country is. I’d almost recommend also having a bridge of meditation for getting in, and then have it partially incomplete, requiring participants to work together to bridge the gap.

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  • Burning Daylight says:

    Absolutely beautiful and stunning. As a place I always seek for refuge, a little more shade would be nice.

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  • Damien Jones says:

    Beautiful work! It’s gonna burn down in about 3 min. I predict the shortest Temple burn ever

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  • Gary Parsons says:

    Initial reaction: sweet but underwhelming. The 2022 temple and the 2019 temple were both mind-blowing. Why encourage less -than-amazing proposals? If the idea is that smaller is better because the burn will be less impactful, then JUST STOP BURNING SHIT!

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    • SpiderDove says:

      No more Starchitects! The ambition of creating some renowned architecture that delays the opening of this space to the people is not what this project is for. It’s for community members who have a beautiful idea to be supported in creating it and sharing it with the citizens of brc.

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    • Sweet Alice says:

      I believe you are missing the essence of what the temple represents to the burner community. This one is spectacular! “Stop burning shit” is akin to saying “Get off my lawn!” Burner grumpiness sucks.

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  • camille salmon says:

    Such a beautiful design and concept. Interested to know more on ways to be involved

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  • DC says:

    This temple already feels so good.

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  • Nicole says:

    I hope to join BM this year for the first time. I am a big fan from Holland, Europe. I like to register as volunteer for one of the art projects but am not certain whether I will be able to obtain a ticket after sales starts in March? Can you explain how that works?



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    • Anna says:

      Hi Nicole,
      Did you find any answers to your question?
      I’m also hoping to come along as a first-timer, and I’m wondering the same thing.


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    • Mansoon says:

      Your question is actually harder to answer than it probably should be, partially because there are so many different ways to work on an art project going to Black Rock City and because, last year, a much higher percentage of groups got burned by people they trusted to work on their camps or art projects than normal. Spending 2020 and 2021 off just broke a lot of the social connections between people (which is the real secret to how Burning Man happens and how the burner culture operates with so many events all over the world). Even people working for the Org, that have been built up over years, and many art crews were suffering, so they had to turn to people without a track record they didn’t know very well. I wasn’t surprised by the results, but they weren’t fatal, just unusual and maybe didn’t engender a lot of trust.
      Probably, a good Org bet is to contact the people at the Artery (wordplay!), which is a Department, that deals with the art projects. I don’t know if they necessarily funnel volunteers to needy projects, but it would be nice if they did.
      See, most people don’t realize that the Org doesn’t pay for but some of a portion of the art out there. Besides the Temple and the Man, they have some hands in about 70-plus projects, but they have to coordinate more than 400, many of which have crews that are basically independent of them.
      So, this may mean that there’s groups like the Iron Monkeys art collective in Seattle, who often get some honorarium funding from the Org for one part and fundraise the rest. But there also may be some art that needs to be shipped from China, that the Org just tries to make sure it’s placed somewhere in a spot that’s not too bad and doesn’t cause conflicts with other pieces of Art. There’s 10,000 ways people get on these crews.
      I’m not sure if they can hook you up with a ticket or not, but if you connect with them, seem sincere, come in and help, they may be able to connect you with a ticket. You don’t have to have it before you leave to come to the states, necessarily, and often art crews have extra tickets, or connections with people and people drop out in the last few weeks or months before the event, so not having a ticket in March, April, May, June, even July doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to find one.
      N First-timers are sometimes an uncertain bet, because even people with great intentions can find themselves in kind of shock in the place and flake out and run off (having a psychological, philosophical, or physiological reaction, maybe to the place, that throws them out of their normal mental space), OR being the kind of person that comes and works so hard they have no fun, and burn out (unintentional wordplay) the first year.
      Because, if you look on the tickets page, there’s lots of sales and things that happen all along and some of them will come out of the blue and surprise you, like the Burner Bus sale. Some people know about it, but I really had no clue until it suddenly popped up one day, and who knows if it will be repeated this year, but I wouldn’t bet against it.
      So, don’t just rely on the Org to make a connection to an art project for you. Go on Facebook and other social media and post that you’re willing to help with the projects. There are some Burner groups that are for various things. Use the search bar in Facebook, find and join them and post that you’re looking to help and post a brief but good idea of your skills, experience, eagerness, and when you can come and how long you can stay. Google art + Burning Man +2023 and see if there are people who have websites where they’re touting what they’re going to do, trying the fundraise, get themselves known, and contact them.

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  • Radar says:

    I love the design!

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  • Maja Bosen says:

    Just gorgeous! I have a flower or set of flowers for you as I’ve been working with them for a Tea & Roses series. It came into being and honors my mother & grandmother who included me in the evening gatherings at the age of three. It was their tea time when they would share their day’s experience and the latest gossip. I was always included in the conversation and gifted a special cup & saucer filled mostly with warm milk and sugar with a splash of tea from my grandmother’s favorite pot.
    Thank you for stirring the pot and bringing this back to the surface.

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  • Glenda says:

    Lovely!! I love that one of your inspirations comes from polish lace.

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  • Sofia says:

    This is just amazing, I love the way from your inspirations come from and how you take care of every detail . Congratulations!

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  • Luis Miguel Oliva says:

    Llevo años queriendo vivir la experiencia Burning man. Después de ver el templo del corazón, siento que este es el año.
    Soy fotógrafo profesional, tengo experiencia como tal en festivales espirituales en España.
    Si lees esto, tienes un equipo para ir este año y quieres incluirme en el, por favor ponte en contacto.

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  • Sue Kaufman says:

    Very very beautiful. It will be a place of awe and humility, wonder and acceptance, grief and joy. It’s perfect.

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  • Scoot says:

    Can’t NOT be stoked for a lady Lead. Git It, Eli!

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  • vinayak srivastava says:

    That’s life at its best

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  • William Ahlquist says:

    The first paragraph of article states only a certain amount of ticket available & then later ” tens of thousands participants “?? I’m confused & are their gates like a brick/mortar bldg? My son attended & said you need to be self sufficient like camping & im trust that( & easy for me even at 71).

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  • Kshemi says:

    It looks beautiful! But, it also leaves me wondering how much shade there will be for people. It doesn’t seem to be leaving a space for people to escape the sun, but that could just be the nature of the drawings and not of the actual design.

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  • DJ Devy says:

    It’s so beautiful

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  • Thomas (the Bishop) Andrejko says:

    Looks really good ! I can’t wait to see it !
    The Bishop returns, see you all on the Playa.

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