Catharsis is a new kind of municipal building for Burning Man. In the spirit of Burning Man city designer Rod Garrett’s desire to activate plazas in his masterplan, we suggested a fractal amphitheatre and forum to provide infinite possibilities to all artists. The intricate structure will be disassembled and reassembled in the spirit of a new circular economy.

This project was initiated by Mikolaj Sekutowicz of the Therme Art Programme who experienced our temple Galaxia at Burning Man in 2018 and wanted to create a link between the experimentation of Black Rock City (the city of burning man) and cities around the world. Mamou-Mani founder Arthur Mamou-Mani, having previously worked on several art pieces at the festival; many with his University of Westminster students and co-tutor Toby Burgess, as well as with his architectural practice Mamou-Mani (i.e. Tangential Dreams), was drawn to the idea of building a project inside the city about the city itself. The founder of Burning Man Larry Harvey said that “people first come for the art but return for the community”. 

In line with Burning Man’s theme of ‘Multiverse’ for 2020, Catharsis is an amphitheatre made of amphitheatres in which everyone is a potential performer. The project’s geometry is based on the Poincare disk, where circles increase as they reach the infinite edge of the hyperbolic plane, and would exist in a space where curves are shorter than straight lines. Seven branches will create unique universes filled with community art, as well as forming the default world around the theme of the future of our cities.

Pursuant of three of the event’s key principles – radical self-expression, radical self-reliance, and immediacy. A question we asked ourselves was, if a city is made of, by and for participants, then what does an amphitheatre even mean? 

Mathematics can really offer an alternative way of thinking about space and is very often connected to natural phenomena. Inspired by this concept I thought of a fractal amphitheatre made of amphitheatres, offering infinite possibilities to its users. The space in-between the circles would rise to the sky and offer labyrinthic galleries for people to place art of any size, allowing for more than just one type of performance, encouraging participation and creativity regardless of backgrounds.’ Arthur Mamou-Mani

The aim of Catharsis is to activate creativity through multi-dimensional art for all of our senses. Sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch are the layers of our perception creating our shared multiverse. Drawing upon the principle of radical inclusion and the traditions of Roman baths as accessible, social, and egalitarian, the project will provide an open platform for all. We invite sound artists, visual artists, and light artists, performance art and food art, in the spirit of gifting and radical self-expression, to perform and place messages about the future of our cities within the structure.  

As urban environments sprawl, re-thinking the way in which we shape our lives and cities has become imperative. There remains a yearning for deeper connections in a consumerist and individualistic society, and our current strategies for designing cities are failing to keep up. For this year’s Burning Man event, our intention was to create a new carbon neutral neighbourhood (including our camp) around the 6pm plaza with Catharsis as its beacon, a fractal art piece acting as a giant lattice for all to gather, discuss, and create.

‘Burning Man has forced me and our students to think with time and buildability in mind. The biggest challenge for Catharsis was to build a safe structure that could be assembled and disassembled several times. I love this idea: allowing buildings to have several lives, assembled when needed and stored when not, in the spirit of the circular economy.’ 

Instead of burning this project as with Galaxia, our aim was to reassemble the project in the courtyard of London’s Somerset House to establish a dialogue between cities, and for the wider community to respond to these messages. We now hope that by creating a virtual event, we can allow anyone around the world to visit the space online. In this surreal parallel universe, the catharsis is now in all of us! Dreams to be continued…


If you would like to be involved in getting Catharsis off the ground, please get in touch with how you might be able to help. You can donate to our fundraising page using the button below. Any help is much appreciated, make sure to include your details so we can thank you and keep you up-to-date with our project’s progress.

DATE  2020





Mamou-Mani: Arthur Mamou-Mani, Ayham Kabbani, Nina Pestel, Holly Hawkins, Youen O’Malley, Liubov Zakharova, Andros Antoniades, Krishna Bhat

Format Engineers: James Solly, Stephen Melville, Lloyd Evans, Camille Chevrier

Therme Art Program: Mikolaj Sekutowicz, Sara Maria Faraj, Shelby Seu Sheena Leach, Giulia Cordier, Ocean, Margaux Gazur, Konrad Schorlemmer, Weihua Yi

Collaborators: Robert Hanea, Philipp Treml, Constanze Leuschner, Lucas Von Oostruum, Jeremy Crandell, Sophia Swire, Jo Craven, Moritz Waldemeyer and Svetlana Marich