Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sukkah City 2010

Today (and tomorrow) sukkot are taking over Union Square Park in Manhattan! The event is called "Sukkah City," an international competition to re-imagine the sukkah. From the website:

'Sukkah City' is an international design competition to re-imagine this ancient phenomenon, develop new methods of material practice and parametric design, and propose radical possibilities for traditional design constraints in a contemporary urban site. Twelve finalists were selected by a panel of celebrated architects, designers, and critics to be constructed in a visionary village in Union Square Park from September 19-20, 2010.

Viewers get to vote for their favorite sukkah, and the winning one will stay up for the holiday week. There will be articles with professional pictures of Sukkah City so please forgive my terrible photos where I attempt to get images of the whole sukkah at angles without people. Needless to say, it was completely packed, so I didn't end up staying very long!

So, on to the sukkot.

I was really excited about this event and spent a while looking at the website ( to see the proposed designs. Here are the highlights from the day!

This sukkah is called "Repetition Meets Difference" by Matthias Karch. I love the way it looks in the sunset:

It looks like a wooden sea urchin to me, or a real-life spirograph drawing (remember spirograph?!). Matthias explains that the design is based off of a "Wachsmann knot," constructed out of wood from Israeli olive trees and American walnet and maple trees. You can really see how the different colors of wood are impacted by the light and angles.

This one, called "Blo Puff" (by Bittertang) has a really great proposal image but I'm not sure it looks like it's supposed to look on the outside.

However, the interior was interesting:

It kind of looks like a cave or a womb. I imagine it would be interesting to be in there at night when the weather has cooled off. The information sheet says that this blo puff glows in the dark, and the proposal image shows it at night. Maybe it's unfair to judge it in bright sunlight. The inside is draped with eucalyptus leaves to give it a pleasant smell... so I really wish I had been able to go inside! I also wonder if the cushions were hand made and, if so, is the shape meant to evoke something? Maybe large, soft leaves?

This interior (and maybe my favorite shot of the day) comes from "Shim Sukkah" by tinder, tinker. The outside seemed to be made of lots of wooden slats that people felt free to spin (although I'm not sure they were meant to spin). I like that the designers went the extra mile to put a matching picnic table and bench inside so you can really imagine sitting in there. Some of the others simply put tree stumps inside to act as a table and chairs. A "shim," for those of us who aren't builders, is used "to fill gaps in construction and to level uneven surfaces... the shim's typical function is to hide imperfections." Hooray for elevating ordinary materials!

Some images from the outside:

This one actually looks exactly like the proposed image, "Fractured Bubble" by Henry Grosman and Babak Bryan. I say "actually" because I am really surprised because the proposed image is pretty amazing. It looks like a large, beautiful tumbleweed.

I wish I could have gotten an interior shot because it's also interesting on the inside. Unfortunately, you see there are lots of people peeking inside, and I didn't feel like standing around in the crowd to get an opportunity for a good shot. The funny thing about that one is that it is so interesting you want to approach it, but the spines make that a pretty hazardous thing to do. I love that the schach (the roof material) is made from an invasive species of grass that grows in Queens (according to the information sheet). It's great to take material that would otherwise be thrown out and repurpose it for art!

This next was extremely different from the others and really challenges my perspective of what a sukkah is. It's called "Log" by Kyle May and Scott Abrahams and it looks exactly like it sounds.

Though it is interesting and different, I'm not sure I see myself enjoying a meal in there on Sukkot. When I think of Sukkot, I think of being in very natural environments, and glass just doesn't fit into that framework for me. Sukkot is one of my favorite holidays because it's feels like urban camping. I like their concept, though, from the sheet it says they want to invert the typical impression of a light structure on top of a solid foundation. Maybe it's just too modern for me...

The next one, "Single Thread" by Matter Practice was one of my favorites but I didn't get a good picture of the whole piece. I can really appreciate the number of man-hours (or woman-hours) that went into this work!

The curling of the thread is just beautiful. I also liked their interpretation of schach, which reminds me of Spanish Moss (maybe it was Spanish Moss, I don't know). It was very graceful and natural, even though most of the piece was made out of metal!

I like what they wrote about their piece in the information sheet:

[The process of construction] can be reversed and repeated: the wire is unthreaded and raveled back onto the spool, and transported to the next site. Each unraveling and re-threading produces new kinks and bends that will become part of the texture of each sukkah.

I think I like this concept because it means the sukkah continues to evolve over time, and they considered the implications of re-constructing the sukkah every year.

Finally, I don't have a great picture of "Gathering," by Dale Suttle, So Sugita, and Ginna Nguyen, which is a shame because I felt this piece was very well done. Though it was made of straight pieces of wood, the overall shape is very organic. I compared it to a dead seed pod that may have just floated down and landed lightly in the park - like those helicopter pods without the helicopter part.

There were many more sukkot! These were the best pictures from the adventure. If you're in New York and want to check it out, it still will be open tomorrow (9/20)!

1 comment:

Another David said...

So cool! I'm sad we don't have something like this in DC. Or at least I don't know anything about it haha. I can't imagine how long it took to build those, though... aren't sukkot supposed to be temporary things? As in, easy to put up and take down?

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