[THIS WEEK] Alain de Botton is planning a series of ‘Temples for Atheists’ in the UK
The idea came through collaboration with Thomas Greenall and Jordan Hodgson, two RCA architecture graduates introduced to him by Nigel Coates. Their initial remit was to provide illustrations for some of the ideas explored in de Botton’s book, Religion for Atheists, which explored life lessons that non-believers could draw from mainstream religions. Through the process of putting it together, de Botton was so taken by the pair’s proposals he decided that he’d pursue them as a built proposal through his firm Living Architecture.
One of the proposals de Botton is most keen on is the Temple to Perspective (pictured), a 43m tower in the City of London, which helps remind us of man’s insignicance - for de Botton, an oddly comforting need that religion helps full. Its height represents the age of the Earth, with each centimetre equating to 1 million years. At the tower’s base, a tiny band of gold a mere millimetre thick stands for mankind’s time on earth. As Greenall says, much of our life is lived at high pace, with constant interruptions, so a bit of distance and time is welcome. You can see the attraction.
There’s other ways of doing this of course, which don’t require new buildings: wander in a gallery on a quiet day; get on a train to a forest; go dancing; shing; running. If you are relaxed in your atheism, can’t you contemplate your insignificance while enjoying the space and light of a Hawksmoor church? The devil has the best tunes and God might have the best buildings - but if you don’t believe in God, so what?
De Botton is deadly serious about it. ‘I’m very, very determined to do this and Living Architecture is the perfect vehicle. Projects like A Room For London show what can be done once everyone comes together. So it will be a reality!’