New York – As the holiday of Sukkot, or the not-so-sexy translation, Festival of Booths, approaches, a design contest in New York City is determined to reinvent the traditional Jewish booth-like sukkah structure. Joshua Foer and Roger Bennett of the cultural organization, Reboot, launched the architectural contest in May 2010, inviting architects and creative minds alike to enter with their vision of a modern interpretation of the sukkah.
The contest was judged by celebrity names in the architectural world and inspired 600 entries, some from the biggest architectural firms around the world, interested in getting publicity for their creative talent. The 12 finalists will build their sukkah in Union Square Park in New York City September 19-21, and the final winner’‘s sukkah will remain standing throughout the Sukkot holiday.
Grounded by the many rules and regulations of building a sukkah found in Jewish law, contestants will have to think outside the box (get it?) to come up with a creative design. However, design philosophy and Jewish law have more in common than you might think – since both strive on finding creative solutions within strict parameters.
Many designers were challenged by the complex and sometimes odd-sounding requirements of a sukkah. The contest’‘s website, www.sukkahcity.com, pictorially displays many of the specifications – there must be more shade than sunlight, at least 2 and a half walls, and organic materials to cover the roof. The website also shares fun, little known sukkah facts – one side can be made of a living elephant (!) and you can even build it on top of a camel or a boat. You’‘ll thank me the next time someone wants to build a sukkah on top of a horse (crazy talk!) Well, at least the biblical handbreadths and cubits have been translated into modern day measurements of feet and inches. But even these measurements were further constricted by New York’‘s limitations of what denotes a temporary structure on public property.
One entry that caught my eye was from Adam Baruchowitz, founder of Wearable Collections, who gathered second-hand raincoats for use in building his sukkah. Since the sukkah can be made of recycled materials, it inspired many sustainable and green designs, and will hopefully spark conversations about environmental awareness in building projects.
Stop by Union Square Park September 19-21 to see the structures from the finalists and vote for your favorite one.
I have one built in my backyard out of branches and a grape vine