“Ostensibly the sukkah’s religious function is to commemorate the temporary structures that the Israelites dwelled in during their exodus from Egypt, but it is also about universal ideas of transience and permanence as expressed in architecture. The sukkah is a means of ceremonially practicing homelessness, while at the same time remaining deeply rooted. It calls on us to acknowledge the changing of the seasons, to reconnect with an agricultural past, and to take a moment to dwell on–and dwell in–impermanence.” (Sukkah City 2010)
ReImagining the Sukkah
Each fall, Jews around the world erect temporary structures (sukkahs) in which we gather for prayer and meals during the 8 day holiday of Sukkot. As suggested above, the Sukkah refers both to the biblical story of the Jews nomadic, 40-year journey through the desert, and the harvest season – two times when temporary shelters have served us well. It is a wonderful tradition with families and communities coming together to build and decorate their “huts.” And, it couldn’t happen during a better season. The fall is a wonderful time to be outdoors, taking in the last bits of nice weather before the cold sets in. In addition, we are required to leave the roof open enough that we can gaze at the stars, which doesn’t feel like much of a struggle.
This Sukkot, an exhibition in New York City’s Union Square called Sukkah City 2010 will feature 12 radical Sukkah designs. Sukkah City is the brainchild of freelance journalist Joshua Foer and Reboot founder Roger Bennett. Over 600 artists and architects responded to the call for proposals, all of which can be seen at http://www.sukkahcity.com. In addition to infusing this ancient tradition with some innovative thinking, these works of art have a place in the contemporary artworld’s interests in social issues like homelessness. Many artists and designers over the past decade have explored the issue of temporary housing in their studios and workshops.
Foer told Architect’s Newspaper:
“We had over 600 entrants, so it was really a diverse set of answer to how this structure could be imagined. Some designers engaged with the idea of ephemerality. Some engaged directly with the idea of collective memory, a structure meant to provoke collective memory. Some engaged with the idea that the structure confront social justice issues. [...] Some of the structures were just little beautiful jewels that are just stunning little pavilions. The idea is that the 12 together will speak to the diversity of responses. It’s not the 12 best sukkahs but the one best sukkah city.”
Here are a few of my top picks. Hoping this will inspire us to do something new in our OWU Sukkah, this or sometime in the future….
Sukkah of Signs – Foer’s top choice…