Sukkah City

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"Fractured Bubble", awarded "the people's choice" sukkah.

Sukkah City was an Architectural design competition[1] and work of installation art planned in partnership with the Union Square Partnership for New York City's Union Square Park in September 2010.

A committee of art critics and architects selected 12 winners from a field of over 600 entries. The twelve winning sukkot were constructed at Brooklyn's Gowanus Studio Space, and driven by truck to Union Square Park for display on September 19 and 20 from dawn to dusk.[2] The design chosen as "the people's choice" stood, starting on September 22, for the requisite seven days of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.[3] Some entries were also selected for display at the Center for Architecture in New York City during the month of September.[4]

The competition was the brainchild of journalist Joshua Foer[5] and Roger Bennett. It was sponsored by Reboot, an organization that aims to catalyze innovation in Jewish culture, rituals, and traditions.[5][6]

A sukkah is the name given to a structure described in Torah. The Children of Israel were instructed to annually commemorate their Exodus from Egypt by dwelling for seven days every autumn in temporary structures reminiscent of those in which they lived during their 40 years of wandering in the desert before settling in the Land of Israel. Many Jews continue this practice to this day, and Sukkah City aims to re-imagine the sukkah in contemporary design.[4]

The competition was to be documented in a book, Sukkah City: Radically Temporary Architecture for the Next 3000 Years, and some of the designs were exhibited in the Center for Architecture in New York City in September, 2010.[4] However, the book has yet to be published. Sukkah City, a documentary about the event, by Jason Hutt, is currently available at First Run Features.

The competition[edit]

The competition was launched with an announcement in May 2010. By June hundreds of architects, artists and designers had entered.[5] The deadline for entries was August 1, 2010.[4]

The jury included Rick Bell, Executive Director of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, Geoff Manaugh, a senior editor at Dwell magazine, architecture critic Paul Goldberger designer Ron Arad, architect Thom Mayne, winner of the Pritzker Prize, Michael Arad, Allan Chochinov, Matias Corea, Steven Heller, Natalie Jeremijenko, Maira Kalman, Thomas de Monchaux, Ada Tolla and Adam Yarinsky.[4][5][7] The rabbinic adviser was Dani Passow.[4]

Co-organizer Joshua Foer expects the entries to range from "the latest in digital fabrication to handmade craft techniques."[7]

During the period when the 12 winners stood in the park, visitors were able to vote for their favorite design.[8]

The "people's choice award" sukkah was entitled Fractured Bubble,and was designed by Long Island City architects Henry Grosman and Babak Bryan.[9]

Design requirements[edit]

All of the entries were required to conform to the requirements of Jewish law, which stipulates that a sukkah design must be a temporary structure.[4] The roof must be made of non-edible plant material.[4] The roofing must be thick enough to shade those sitting inside in daytime, and thin enough so that stars are visible through the roof at night.[4] The walls must be at least 10 handsbreadth tall but can be made of any material; the body of a dead whale can serve as a wall.[4][7][10] The sukkah can also be built atop a live camel.[3][4][7]

According to competition organizer Joshua Foer, "The sukkah is a space to ceremonially practice homelessness.... In that sense it is an architecture of both memory and empathy—memory of the huts the Israelites dwelled in during their exodus from Egypt long ago, and empathy for those who live today without solid shelter over their heads. It goes up in the fall, just when it's no longer entirely comfortable to be outside.[10] His comments refer to the weather in New York: in Israel the weather is still very clement at this time of year. One of the winners, Sukkah of the Signs, designed by architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, clad the sukkah structure with several hundred homeless signs collected by the designers from homeless around the country.


  1. ^ "Gimme shelter: Architects, reimagined the sukkah," Christopher Hawthorne, August 19, 2010, Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ "'Sukkah City' Design Winners Announced," 08-20-2010, Brooklyn Eagle.
  3. ^ a b "A Sukkah Bound For New York; A Competition Opens and Designers Enter," Samuel Gruber, Published June 23, 2010, issue of July 02, 2010, Forward.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Sukkah City Webpage.
  5. ^ a b c d "Holiday Tradition Meets Modern Design," Pia Catton, June 8m 2010, Wall Street Journal.
  6. ^ Reboot webpage.
  7. ^ a b c d "Sukkah City," Sam Grawe, Dwell, 30 May 2010.
  8. ^ "Reimagining Ancient Architecture," Virginia Prescott, June 29, 2010, New Hampshire Public Radio.
  9. ^ "Traditional Sukkahs Reinterpreted at Union Square in NY," Tim McDevitt, September 21, 2010, Epoch times.
  10. ^ a b "Taking a New Look at Old Testament Architecture," Kristi Cameron, June 10, 2010,

External links[edit]