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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sukkah City

I have found it remarkable that everyone I have spoken to, including those who grew up outside the United States, has participated in what appears to be one of the most universal past times of children - the building of makeshift structures to hide and play in. An amalgam of anything available - sheets, cardboard, etc. are utilized to make a mini-home or fort. Perhaps it should be no surprise, owing that shelter is such a primal need of every human. Also no surprise that George Costanza of the TV series Seinfeld, in order to impress a woman, lies about his work, claiming that he is an architect.

Architecture is certainly an endeavor where the ingenuity, brilliance, resourcefulness and creativity of the human mind can be seen. One needs no further evidence than the recent international design competition, Sukkah City. There were 624 entries from 43 countries - you can see them here at the Sukkah City website. Every imaginable material and fabrication method was used to build Sukkahs*, as long is they conformed to the rules of construction. Twelve of the finalists were displayed in Union Square for two days (September 19 & 20) and the finalist, shown in today's top photo remains there for the entire week of Sukkot. See second photo here.

The designs are beautiful, evocative and inspiring. All twelve sukkah finalists are on sale, with proceeds benefiting Housing Works, an organization fighting Aids and homelessness. For the Jew or non-Jew, those with a home and those without, all can find inspiration in Sukkah City :)

*A sukkah is a temporary "booth" (the Hebrew translation) to live in during Sukkot, a week long festival that commemorates the forty-year period during which Israelites lived in temporary shelters while wandering in the desert after their exodus from Egypt. There are many rules governing the construction and use of the sukkah it must have two and a half walls (two full and one partial). The roof needs to be organic materials and sparse enough to let rain in and preferably to let the stars be seen from inside. Although Jews are required to eat all their meals and sleep in the sukkah, they do not need to do so if they are uncomfortable or during rain. See my photos here of a traditional sukkah typically found during this holiday in various locations around the city.

Note: The event was sponsored and organized by a number of firms, including the AIA center of New York City, located at 536 LaGuardia Place. A Sukkah City exhibition is on view from September 22, 2010 – October 30, 2010.

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