Arthur Mamou-Mani, Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Westminster, has designed and built Galaxia, a wooden pavilion that will be sent up in flames in the Nevada desert at the end of this year’s nine-day festival.

The design references the fictional planet Gaia from Isaac Asimov’s 1980s sci-fi book series ‘Foundation’. Its structure was selected by the Burning Man Arts organisation, which runs the creative programme for the occasion.

Galaxia is a demonstration of the power of robotic tools, representing this year’s ‘I, Robot’ theme. It was designed with fabrication tools like 3D printers and laser cutters, and digital 3D-modelling tools like Grasshopper and Rhinoceros.

The structure is formed of 20 timber trusses that spiral up forming a tower as they converge and creating different paths into the centre of the pavilion, where a 3D-printed mandala is placed. There are also small bays along the routes for visitors to write and reflect. As they make their way through the paths, the timber modules become thinner and thinner towards the sky until visitors reach the mandala, Galaxia’s heart.

According to Arthur, it depicts a spiritual place that has a close link to our scientific understanding. Its technique, a swirling style of geometry, makes the structure seem as if it has emerged naturally. The Burning Man Journal said: “Galaxia celebrates hope in the unknown, stars, planets, black holes, the movement uniting us in swirling galaxies of dreams. It is the ultimate network, the fabric of the universe connecting living beings into one entity.”

Burning Man is a festival dedicated to community where revellers set up camp in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert and build a city from scratch. Originally a bonfire ritual for summer solstice, it is now a temporary city that celebrates art and architecture. Burning Man 2018 will take place from 26 August to 3 September.

Since 2000, a wooden temple has formed the sacred centre of the festival. Its cremation represents the end of the festival, in a “collective release”. This year’s Galaxia will mostly be built in Reno, Nevada, and assembled in the desert with the help of volunteers.

Arthur is the director of Mamou-Mani Architects and an advocate for a new approach to architecture in which the architect is the maker. His firm specialises in a new kind of digitally designed and fabricated architecture and he also owns Fab.Pub, a digital fabrication laboratory.

For six years, Arthur has been taking art installations with groups of students and staff from the Master of Architecture March (RIBA II) to Burning Man with co-tutor Toby Burgess. Tangential Dreams, one of the installations the Westminster’s architecture student group WeWantToLearn.Net built for the 2016 edition won the Popular Choice in the Pop-ups and Temporary category – Architizer Awards.

By encouraging his students to participate in this event, they are able to receive on-site mentorship and hands-on building experience outside the academic context. In an interview with CNN, Arthur described the festival as an “architecture boot camp” where students become much more aware of the process and the experience of community living.

Having an international Temple and a partnership with Westminster reflects the global nature of the University and the Burning Man community that is based in Black Rock City, a place where spaces for human experiences and opportunities for learning are created.

Read more about the media coverage Arthur Mamou-Mani got for Galaxia.

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