A Temple for Atheists

In Architecture, Philosophy on January 31, 2012 at 11:23 am

Above, a tall dark tower looms over a crowded city of London. Pigeons scatter across the sky while some perch nonchalantly atop the structure. Almost looking like a still straight out from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, this photograph instantly caught my eye. Seen on the website of The Telegraph, it is a concept visual for philosopher Alain de Botton’s proposal for secular temples to be built in cities across the country, starting in London.

Why Atheists would need temples is curious food for thought. Raised as a Atheist himself, Alain de Botton explains that in today’s busy world, people have little time for organised religion. However, it does not mean that they do not appreciate the nostalgic memories and charming rituals that religion presents. In a way, these religious buildings bring across a sense of calm, much like how old architecture from ages past, do. He hopes that these “secular spaces for contemplation” will help cure modern egotism and encourage oneself to be less selfish and more aware of the world around them.

The design of the tower itself has a interesting story- it will be made from different types of stones spanning across human history, forming a visual geological timeline, starting with a 1mm band of gold at the foot of the tower which symbolises man’s time on earth, relative to the age of the earth. Alain de Botton believes that this structure will be able to compete with great churches and “will have a timeless quality”.

This in my opinion is such a forward thinking proposal which addresses modern needs and captures current lifestyles so effectively. I have always been in admiration of the energy that active religious-activity-goers have, especially in this fast paced lifestyle where time is never enough. Unfortunately, many people find the amount of time or energy needed to seem ‘devoted’ so intimidating that it drives them away from the religion in question. This beautiful structure is a great way of reminding us to be contemplative of our place in this big world. The open attitude that it upholds bridges the gap between belief and nothing at all- be spiritual in your own time, in your own way.

Alain de Botton’s The Architecture of Happiness is proving to be a very enlightening read. I am quite a fan of his work- he writes with purpose and has the ability to present complicated concepts in the simplest ways. Religion for Atheists is definitely next on my list.

I tried to scour the internet for more photographs but I guess the plans are still in its initial stages. For the full article head over to


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