Temple to Perspective by Tom Greenall
and Jordan Hodgson for Alain de Botton


Temple to Perspective by Tom Greenall and Jordan Hodgson for Alain de Botton

Following last week's announcement that writer Alain de Botton plans to build a series of temples for atheists, here are some more images of the first structure planned for the City of London.

Temple to Perspective by Tom Greenall and Jordan Hodgson for Alain de Botton

Each centimetre of the hollow stone tower's 46 metre height will represent a million years of the earth's existence so far, while a millimetre-thick band of gold around the base will denote how long humans have been part of that history.

Temple to Perspective by Tom Greenall and Jordan Hodgson for Alain de Botton

Images of the Temple to Perspective and other temples designed by architects Tom Greenall and Jordan Hodgson are included in de Botton’s latest book, Religion for Atheists - find out more in our earlier Dezeen Wire.

Since we announced news of the proposals last week, Guardian critic Steve Rose has described them as unlikely to "convince any religious adherent to cross over", while Dezeen readers found them "beautiful", "perplexing" and "a waste of time" in equal measures - join the debate here.

Here's some more text from Tom Greenall:

Temple to Perspective

Standing 46-metres tall and in the heart of the City of London, the temple represents the entire history of life on earth: each centimetre of its height equates to one million years of life. One metre from the ground, a single line of gold - no more than a millimetre thick - represents the entire existence of humankind. A visit to the temple is intended to leave one with a renewed sense of perspective.

  • ryan morson

    they must be some really big birds in the first rendering

  • I like it as a piece of design, and I think design is only worth for it´s own value and not for it´s meaning, by the way I´m a non believer myself .

  • OK, so it would seem the obelisk is one big middle finger raised against Creationism, huh? Funny, since I thought that quarrel was mostly contested on the other side of the Atlantic.

    As a designer, I feel it kind of odd to put the golden band that represents mankind at the bottom, although obviously by placing it at the top would make it impossible to see. So how about a thin glowing strip illuminated by LEDs at the top?

    Frankly it would have been better if they had designed a wall that mimicked Sagan's Cosmic Calendar, but I guess there were space limitations in the project.

    I still think calling this a 'temple' is a silly idea. An Atheist temple entails an Atheist ritual and ,consequently, and Atheist dogma, which I thought was what the Atheists wanted to get rid of in the first place.

    But in truth, it goes to show they do have dogmas and commandments to follow— aside from a great deal of jealousy towards other institutionalized Fundamentalisms ;)

    • Chris

      You're reading too much into this. Atheists don't believe in anything, they merely don't believe in in a divine being, nor the blatant hypocrisy of religion. they aren't a 'we', they aren't a group brought together to collectively embrace someone or something, they are merely human and choose whether to celebrate it or not, to the one's who do, there is now a place to do it.

      • Well, if this project is meant to bring together humans in their celebration of humanity, then why is it that only 2-3 persons can fit inside that big black pipe? ;)

        Or maybe this is just a place when they can be reminded of their own insignificance in the big scheme of things?

        Whether an open space, or a space devoted to augurs —as the Latin root implies— a temple has always been considered a 'hallowed' or 'sacred' place. What can be considered 'sacred' to an Atheist? probably what is mentioned in the play Inherit the Wind:

        "Yes. The individual human mind. In a child's power to master the multiplication table, there is more sanctity than in all your shouted "amens" and "holy holies" and "hosannas." An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral. And the advance of man's knowledge is a greater miracle than all the sticks turned to snakes or the parting of the waters."

        So, is this 'temple' the best place to allow this?

    • mat walker

      The idea is taken from his book Religion For Atheists and looks at how many social and emotional needs found in religion are overlooked in secular society. The point of the Temple to Perspective is not to have the gold band at the top, but to remind us that in a world where we give ourselves far too much self importance we can find comfort if things aren’t going our way in the fact we are insignificant in the universe. He claims this is one of the many things that cathedrals or other religious buildings can achieve and that it is sad that atheists don’t have an equivalent.

  • Chris

    Whether is succeeds to “convince any religious adherent to cross over” or not, the moment that you enter this structure will surely be striking. The contrast in confined width with such a vast height is really intriguing.

    • Airborn

      It will be striking from the inside for those few that enter the structure. But for the majority that only experience this column in a city setting it will not be appealing. On the contrary, it just looks like a chimney stalk that possibly bring up negative associations. As such it will definitely not serve the purpose of giving Atheism a more accepted position in society. Still have to read Alain's new book though.

      • Chris

        You may be right, but isn't the purpose of a building to satisfy it's inhabitants rather than please a passer-by? It's only through the perverted evolution of Architecture that we now believe buildings should be designed with the exterior taking precedent over the interior. By going back to the roots of Architecture, to the point of mud huts and cavemen, where Architecture was merely a shelter from the climate, maybe this will be the ultimate testament to the ingenuity of man, rather than the omnipotence of god.

  • Laura Skeeters

    As usual religious people don't get it!
    Atheism is not a religion, is a creed and it shouldn't be represented in any way.
    I am atheist and I feel this first temple, the celebration of Earth, is very appropriate.

  • Why the City of London? A structure composed of shredded money capped in 24 karat gold with a cantilevered dangling Bugatti Veyron at it’s apex and out of reach of those below seems more appropriate in this location.

    • Chris

      Are you joking me? A city that celebrates selfish gain, greed, science and liberalism? I'd say this is the perfect place to celebrate that which we call 'man'.

  • armani88

    the hole at the top seems like it would make a great bird pooping hole

  • alex

    The idea is an oxymoron, and is a tall vertical chimney aimed at the sky not quite a religious (theist) symbol in itself?

    • Anna

      No, an aethist temple isn't an oxymoron.

      One of the definitions of the word 'temple' is: "Something of importance; something attended to." from the Latin templum, which also has the meaning "an open space".

      I am moderately religious myself, and I have no problem with aethists having a temple if they want one.

      • felix

        we don't want one though

        • douglas montgomery

          No. Some do, some don't. Clearly some atheists can't resist acting like they belong to a religion – hence the urge for a temple, but other atheists are smart enough to identify this tendency as sending out the 'wrong message' to the believing community.

  • Ahsan

    For such a controversial project, good luck getting a permit to erect it.

  • JJK

    I'm an atheist, and a lover of Alain de Botton and all his schemes…
    But this is a self-parody.

  • Nobody2

    The overall concept is fine, the building itself is poorly thought out. Why would you build such a depressing and oppressive monument. You have the freedom to build a structure without religious tradition: vibrant, natural, and unpretentious. Instead it looks like something the most gloomy theocracy would build to watch over its followers.

  • OriginAll

    This portrayal of london makes it look like Sin city.

  • helge

    As an idea: interesting
    As a building: useless

  • airborn

    If anything is worth transferring from religious idioms it is the mass. Not so much a building that leads to introvert refection. A gathering of people that celebrate something has a spiritual up-lifting effect. It is the feeling of being part of a greater whole. This was utilized by all great the-isms and it was what made them strong. Not words of doom. Of course it was always misinterpreted. Atheism deserves a celebration of life combined with architecture. Throw in some video and life music and we are getting something that might actually attract people.

    • douglas montgomery

      welcome to the slippery slope

  • sss

    it would make more sense if it's built next to a real temple of sorts so that it will slam on it

  • This structure is very poor.
    Religion and Myth.It is impossible to understand Art and the glory of its history without avowing religious spirituality and the mythical roots that lead us to the very reason of being of the artistic phenomenon. Without the one or the other there would be no Egyptian pyramids or those of ancient Mexico. Would the Greek temples and Gothic cathedrals have existed? Would the amazing marvels
    of the Renaissance and the Baroque have come about?
    Would we now be the heirs of the inexhaustible artistic treasure worldwide popular sensitivity?
    Without the desire for God, our planet would be a sorry wasteland of ugliness.

    • Chris

      That is quite frankly, utter nonsense. Without religion's oppression, I believe humanity would be much further along in terms of science and the liberalisation of man. To be quite honest, I detest the ostentatious vulgarity of renaissance and it's repression of difference.
      Maybe if religion wasn't around to slow down the advancement of man, post-modernism would be well and truly behind us. Instead I still have to look at buildings designed to wow it's spectators rather than function for it's actual inhabitants.

  • Sarah

    I could imagine more joyful things to do then sitting in a gloomy-looking stone tower to worship no-one, but I guess everyone finds happiness in different ways.

  • architecting

    As an architect,it wud be preferable to celebrate each moment arising from function rather than saying architecture is my religion and i establish it for people to be in awe of it always,no_ we wud rather want an atheist to enjoy the play of light,color, texture,(other imp. etc.)water, brick,wood,snow,rain,play,LIFE than make it an eyesore for all;a religious human wud see the sanctity of my devotion to be reasonable and fair in life from my structure ,architecture is an expression not a corrupt institution

  • Marthy Angue

    It’s a very unfortunate metaphor for atheism, I think, to look up to the heavens through a narrow, narrow tube.