Buddhist Bottle Temple
Beer, Buddhism, and $100,000 worth of world-changing photography.
By Maria Popova
In 1963, Alfred Heineken traveled to the Caribbean, where he got a bright idea for a two-birds-with-one-stone solution to the region’s littering problem and the lack of affordable building materials. He contacted Dutch architect John Habraken and the Heineken WOBO was born — a beer bottle that can be reused as a “brick” after the bacchanalia.
Great idea. Except it never reached critical mass.
Half a century later, Thai Buddhist monks have resurrected the idea with the Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple, built entirely out glass bottles. Over a million of them.
Every minute detail of the temple is made entirely from bottles, from the roofing to the washrooms to the crematorium.
Monks first began using bottles to decorate their shelters and the temple’s murals in 1984, which inspired people to donate more bottles, eventually amassing enough to build entire buildings like pagodas and ceremony halls.
We think the temple is a stunning reminder of the pressing need for recycling, repurposing, and rethinking our global drinking problem. After all, it takes 700 years for a single plastic bottle to even begin decomposing, and at a consumption rate of 30 billion plastic bottles per year, the we need more than prayers to move towards a more sustainable relationship with water. (Remember Blue Planet Run?)
Speaking of, the winner of the £53,000 Prix Pictet photography award was just announced — this year’s theme was water sustainability. Check it out.
Published November 7, 2008