After winning a grant from the Burning Man Festival to DS10 tutor Arthur Mamou-Mani, a team of Westminster staff and students joined to develop and realise the project at the festival, the biggest celebration of interactive art in the world.

The team included Westminster lecturer Jon Goodbun who acted as perimeter lead, and DS10 past-students Hamish Macpherson, the Burn Lead, as well as current student Laura Nica. Together they built a temporary interactive tower called "Tangential Dream".

This structure is the result of four years of research, building projects at the Burning Man festival with the Westminster architecture student group (with co-tutor Toby Burgess and structural engineers Format).

Burn Lead and Westminster Master of Architecture (MArch) (RIBA pt II) graduate Hamish McPherson, together with Westminster students Maialen Calleja and Laura Nica, were lucky to gain hands-on experience in the major international building project.

Hamish McPherson said: “It was probably the best experience of my life. The most important thing was to be able to be part of the project from design to conclusion. Also, I organised the entire burning process, and so learnt a lot about the bureaucratic part of it as you have to account for every possible risk. It’s quite dangerous burning stuff on that scale.

Tengential Dream at Night by University of Westminster tutor Arthur Mamou-Mani at Burning Man

“The most incredible part without doubt is building the project and then actually seeing it being used by people and getting feedback, and then having the experience of seeing it burning to the ground,” he added.

Hamish continued: “With regards to employment, the fact that we built it ourselves is very important. In architecture, how can someone do something without practical experience? So having more experience on site is great – first-hand experience in construction is invaluable. Also, working with third parties, organising the timber, working with transportation, even working with the festival to ensure we had all the correct equipment as we were in the desert, and learning about collaboration are all very useful.”

 ‘Tangential Dreams’ is a climbable sinuous tower made from off-the-shelf timber and digitally designed via algorithmic rules. One thousand tangent and light wooden pieces, stencilled with inspiring sentences ‘donated’ through the project’s crowdfunding campaign, are strongly held in position by a helicoid sub-structure rotating along a central spine which also forms a safe staircase to climb on.

While climbing on the challenging structure, the participants could read tangents such as “Those who dream by day are cognisant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”; “Kisses are free”; “Give = Get”; “Done is better than perfect”; and “Although the complexity of life is the true source of my awakened happiness, in my dreams there is only you.” At the end of the festival the installation was ritualistically burnt.

Tangents of Tangential Dream by University of Westminster tutor Arthur Manou-Mani at Burning Man

Mamou-Mani is leading Design Studio 10 with Toby Burgess, teaching MArch in the University’s Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment. The studio has formed a dedicated Westminster architecture student group Being part of the group, the students are given an assignment every year to design a pavilion matching the principles of the Burning Man festival, including making the design interactive and leaving no trace. These designs are then submitted to the Burning Man festival organisers, applying for an honorary grant of $25,000 which, together with £15,000 raised this year through a kickstarter campaign, covered the expenses incurred by attending.

In previous years, the student group led by Mamou-Mani has built The Infinity Tree, The Bismuth Bivouac and Reflection last year and in 2013 they built Shipwreck and Fractal Cult at the Burning Man festival.


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