Introducing BRC’s Temple for 2024: the Temple of Together

As the mud dried last September, artists were already dreaming and planning for the next iteration of Black Rock City. Now, as we welcome the new year, we’re thrilled to announce the awe-inspiring 2024 Temple: the Temple of Together by Caroline Ghosn!

The Design

The design of the Temple of Together beautifully portrays the light that emerges when we come together with all parts of ourselves and with the oneness we share with all living beings.

The dominant motif in the design is the representation of two hands coming together in prayer, with the flow of the building’s energy coming together and then emerging upwards. Joining two hands is a common gesture in nearly all spiritual traditions, symbolizing unity, humility, and respect. This is depicted literally by the two hands that create the archway at the 6:00 entrance. It is also represented more abstractly in the neo-Gothic pointed arches repeated throughout the design, which are also reminiscent of the layered, geometric shapes and symmetry of the Art Deco style from a century ago. 

In this time of global challenge and conflict, we are invited to find strength in unity, and to be seen, loved, and inspired.

Close-up of 3:00 entrance of the Temple of Together by Caroline Ghosn, 2024 (Design rendering by Maissa Sader)

The structure, including the fenced courtyard, will span 94 feet in diameter and rise 70 feet above the playa surface. 

The cladding is based on reeded weaving techniques, present in multiple cultures but specifically referencing the wooden Khaizaran chair that Caroline remembers sitting on as a young child, aspiring to be an artist. This weaving technique allows for the use of sustainable and repurposed materials and invites participation from volunteers of any skill level — one of many opportunities for volunteers without construction experience to contribute creatively.

The various design elements that support the concept of coming together contribute to the flow of energy forming at the center of the design. The light that emerges from unity comes to life via the altar, spire, and the rising lanterns, directing that energy up and out as a shared journey.

The renderings for the Temple of Together evoke a sense of familiarity thanks to a design that pays homage to Temples from the past. It comes as no surprise that Caroline’s first Burning Man experience in 2014 had a lasting impact, as she found solace and acceptance for her grief when she visited the Temple of Grace by David Best, the original Temple artist. She honors her “gateway” Temple with the skirted bell shape and intricate, repeating shapes that inspire and delight the eye.

The 2017 Temple lead artists, Marisha Farnsworth and Steven Brummond, have shared their expertise around using sustainable materials to support Caroline’s goal of achieving a carbon-negative Temple. Finally, she honors and builds upon Ela Madej and Reed Finlay’s focus on intimacy and inclusivity in last year’s Temple of the Heart. As a result, her design incorporates multiple private alcoves and intentional seating to enhance the Temple experience for participants. Additionally, the Together team is planning projects for every skill level. Volunteers are invited to co-create wish lanterns, prayer pillows, and the reeded cladding.

If you are as excited as we are for this Temple, go experience this short video, which walks you through a 3D model. This will give you a taste of what it may feel like when we experience it for ourselves!

Aerial view of the Temple of Together by Caroline Ghosn (Design rendering by Maissa Sader)

The Lead Artist

Temple of Together’s lead artist, Caroline Ghosn (whose playa name is “Glitter Kitty,” from Camp Mystic), describes herself as a creatrix and community builder who cares about radical, aligned self-expression. She has led large-scale community activations, founded a visionary multimedia theater and film company focused on supporting the regenerative feminine principle through disruptive narrative, and has served as an environmental consultant, giving her the skill set to meet her sustainability goals with this project.

Her first Burn was in 2014, and she has returned every year since. She has lived in six countries and speaks four languages, and currently splits her time between the Bay Area and New York City. 

Caroline was inspired to design the Temple after overcoming her own decades-long battle with multi-generational trauma and illness. She has experience with building purpose-driven communities at scale, and invites participants in her art to explore their own internal topography, particularly their uncharted darkness. In 2022, she was the lead artist for “Disturb My Slumber,” her first large-scale Burning Man art project, which was also one of the burns that year. The project invited participants to reflect on what they confronted through the pandemic and “what treasure they unburied in the dark.” 

Caroline says, “Some of my life experiences were so deeply painful and challenging that I broke apart and put myself back together again with as much love as I could muster. That heartbreak is now inextricably linked with my creativity and my creations, and my deep passion for exploring unifying themes of our human condition, such as grief and self-reckoning (and the remembering that it takes to heal).”

The Selection Process

Selecting the Temple for Black Rock City is a unique challenge!

We look for a design that is novel, yet still fits within the Burning Man Temple tradition of being a treasured sanctuary for all. The design needs to have a strong visual impact while also serving as a space to encapsulate the full range of our community’s experience and offerings. Along with selecting a strong concept and design, we are equally interested in the lead artist and crew. The Temple is the heart of our city, and it requires a thoughtful leader with strong moral character. 

There are both conceptual and practical considerations in selecting the Temple. Does the design stand out as a beautiful artwork without distracting from participants’ personal experiences? Is the build plan feasible? Can it be assembled in the two-and-a-half weeks on playa before the gates open for the event? Will it burn beautifully and safely? Have the applicants considered sustainability in their design and execution? Does the team have the Leave No Trace experience for such a large project and burn?

The lead artist is central in the decision-making process; we need to be sure to select someone who is motivated by the right reasons. They need leadership experience and the ability to inspire many volunteers to execute the project. The lead artist needs to be skilled at facing adversity and pushing through to completion no matter what.

We received some incredible proposals this year, and we’re delighted with our selection of the Temple of Together! The concept of coming together resonated with us more than ever in these times of division and conflict. We also were moved by how Caroline began the design process by thinking about the experience for participants, being thoughtful about how it would feel to be inside the space — and evolved the design from there.

Caroline will be the first BIPOC, female Temple lead artist, contributing to our larger goal to become more radically inclusive and diverse. Those who have worked with Caroline before praise her ability to build diverse and inclusive teams, which is a crucial aspect of what makes a strong Temple crew.

Another benefit is that Caroline has already secured a team of highly skilled builders with extensive experience in building previous Temples. We’ll see some familiar faces for key roles, including TreeJay and Nonstop Symon from the Temple Builders Guild, Sparkle Pony Paul, and several leaders from 2023’s Temple of the Heart. Additionally, she has two new leads who are founders of a carbon transformation company to help her achieve her sustainability goals. 

Caroline’s goal to be the most environmentally sustainable Temple ever was another key consideration as we monitor our progress in meeting our own sustainability goal to be carbon negative by 2030. Rather than being an afterthought, she incorporated sustainability into the design and the scale, and she’s tapping into the community to make this goal a reality.

We hope you are as inspired as we are by our 2024 Temple!

Aerial view of the main entrance at dusk for the Temple of Together by Caroline Ghosn (Design rendering by Maissa Sader)

How You Can Get Involved

Building the Black Rock City Temple takes a vast community of people who are dedicated to creating a space for thousands of participants to have meaningful experiences. While some team leads are already in place, the Temple of Together crew will be looking to fill many more roles in the coming months.

Are you curious about joining the Temple crew? Caroline welcomes all, from experienced builders to those who have never picked up a screwdriver and are eager to learn. If you would like to help, please fill out this form. The Temple of Together will integrate various forms of artisanry and craftsmanship, from woodworking to sewing, working with paper mache, visual storytelling, lighting, and the creation of healing sound. In addition, every Temple crew is in need of project management, administrative support, social media, fundraising, event planning, and other contributions. If any of these areas particularly resonate with you and your experience, we hope that you will join them! There are volunteer roles needed for both remote and in-person contributions in the Bay Area.  

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 early for a special thank you through the Temple of Together website, or look for the Kickstarter campaign scheduled to launch in February. 

The Temple of Together team is committed to sharing this journey with our global community. To that end, in honor of 24 years of Temples at Burning Man, the team will be hosting Together Town Halls on the 24th of each month (schedule and details here) — join us for the first one on January 24th at 12pm PT / 3pm ET / 9pm CET.

Cover image ft. nighttime rendering of the Temple of Together by Caroline Ghosn (Design rendering by Maissa Sader)

About the author: Katie Hazard and spec Guy

Katie Hazard and spec Guy

Katie Hazard (yes that’s her real last name) is the Director of Art 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 Department. In this role, she administers the Honoraria and Temple grant programs, acts as a liaison for selected art projects, manages the ARTerian volunteers, and supports 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.

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