The rich and lyrical symbolism of Metamorphoses is the theme for this Burning Man base pavilion design in Black Rock City, Nevada. This design suggests an experience symbolizing the nature of Metamorphoses, of transformation, following a path of mystery and ambiguity. For the first time in its history, the Burning Man Organization held an invited design competition for the Man Base Pavilion.

Rethinking The Future Awards 2020
First Award | Pop-ups and Temporary Structure (Concept)

Project Name: The Golden Cage
Studio Name:
Form4 Architecture
Design Team: Architect/Lead Artist: John Marx
Area: top 500 sf
main 2600 sf
bottom 1000 sf
total = 8000 sf
tall: 100 feet
Year: 2019
Location: Black Rock City, NV
Photography Credits: Renderings by John Marx and Downtown

The Golden Cage Form4 Architecture - Sheet1
©Renderings by John Marx and Downtown

In the realm of humankind, most journeys begin with a destination.  There is a fixed plan, a schedule, an itinerary.  We move at a logical pace.  If history has taught us anything, it is that Metamorphoses, true change and transformation follows a path of mystery and ambiguity, it can rarely be predicted how and when the change will occur, it will most certainly not follow a linear path, and the outcome can be just as unpredictable.

The Golden Cage Form4 Architecture - Sheet2
©Renderings by John Marx and Downtown

There is a village that surrounds both sides of The Man, within which there are eight workshops, workshops that focus on transformation, on how the world might progress if we made the effort. Five concepts are interwoven to create the central structure, loosely based on Ovid’s tales from 8 AD.

The first takes the form of two heroic wings, you might start to imagine a butterfly, but the wings, while clearly suggestive of flight, are not exactly the pure form of a butterfly, there is ambiguity, it could also be a bird, or a flying fish, or the wings of Icarus, a symbol of Man’s passion and arrogance.

The Golden Cage Form4 Architecture - Sheet3
©Renderings by John Marx and Downtown

The second is expressed by a large blue sphere, which symbolizes the earth and all the potential our time on this planet represents.  Within this sphere are seven levels, each level affords a different artist the opportunity to tell a story about Metamorphoses.

The third presents the figure of two large arms, which seem to be holding up the globe, almost offering it to the heavens, it is an adaptation of Ovid’s dark tale of Apollo pursuing Daphne, with the intention of raping her, wherein the gods take pity on Daphne and turn her into a tree. These hands now allude to a re-greening of the earth, a hope for a better planet.

The Golden Cage Form4 Architecture - Sheet4
©Renderings by John Marx and Downtown

The fourth is represented by the Golden Cage that surrounds the Man himself.  The cage represents the internal and external forces that keep us from realizing our potential as human beings. On Burn Night, the Golden Cage will fall away, freeing the Man from its earthly constraints.  At the same time, Man’s arms would rise and extend, and an LED and cloth cape would descend, completely its symbolic metamorphosis.

The last concept involves the power of the human heart. At the top of the globe, right under the Man, there is a platform with an inlaid one-way mirror, in the shape of a heart, “and if you get down on your knees, and look intensely into that heart, you can see the whole universe. This is your universe, this your heart, and you know, in that moment, this is where you belong.”


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