The week-long festival of Sukkot is an important celebration in the Jewish faith, occurring annually during the harvest season. While reporting on religious celebrations would normally fall beyond our urban-focused radar, the festival of Sukkot has a unique tie-in to the architecture and design communities world wide. During Sukkot, families build a small shack, or Sukkah, on their property, with families eating all meals within the Sukkah and males sleeping in them at night. There are several rules and traditions associated with Sukkot, but very few of these rules apply to the actual construction of a Sukkah, which can be built with almost any material, as long as the roof is made of an organic material such as leaves or other organic brush. This leaves plenty of room for innovative design, one of the main themes of Sukkahville, an international design competition that challenges designers of any faith to re-imagine the standard design for a Sukkah.
Started back in 2011 by non-profit housing agency Kehilla, Sukkahville invites designers to create their own unique structures, raising awareness about affordable housing in the process. The event transformed Nathan Phillips Square for a few days this week, as a collection of unique wooden structures populated the square. Below, we take a look at some of the innovative designs selected as finalists for Sukkahville 2014.
Reflect-Reveal-Rebirth, finalist at Sukkahville 2014 at Nathan Phillips Square, image by Jack Landau
Reflect-Reveal-Rebirth was submitted by Michael Signorile and Edward Perez of Teaneck, New Jersey. The structure is comprised of a biodegradable corn foam skin supported by wooden ribs, covered in leaves and grasses. One notable aspect of this design is the way the corn foam skin dissolves on contact with water, which is designed to be reapplied by new occupants after rain.
Cloud and Light, finalist at Sukkahville 2014 at Nathan Phillips Square, image by Jack Landau
Cloud and Light was submitted by Louise Shin, Nivin Nabeel and Daniel Bassakyros from right here in Toronto. The design of the structure is meant to evoke the look of a pillar of light and cloud made possible with the use of Tyvek, a recyclable material which serves as the translucent outer skin of the structure, allowing ample natural light to penetrate into the Sukkah.
Shield of David, finalist at Sukkahville 2014 at Nathan Phillips Square, image by Jack Landau
Shield of David was submitted by Taller David Dana Arquitectura of Mexico City. The design is evocative of a classic Sukkah design, but with some dry interesting touches thrown into the mix. A unique Star of David inspired pattern is the main design element of this Sukkah, making up a permeable wooden exterior, allowing light to reach the centre of the modular, prefabricated Sukkah, where a small tree sits as the centrepiece.
Halo Sukkah, finalist at Sukkahville 2014 at Nathan Phillips Square, image by Jack Landau
Halo Sukkah was submitted by Alice Vuap and Andrew Nicolas, from the island nation of Cyprus. Easily the most abstract of the finalists, Halo Sukkah transforms a simple circular shape into a bending and twisting assembly of three circular rings, arranged in continuous loops. The design features a central roof opening encircled by hanging vines that surround hammock-like seating. The team behind Halo Sukkah worked from over 9000 kilometres away from Nathan Phillips Square, which led the team to use lightweight, easily transportable materials for the design.
Other finalists at Sukkahville 2014 included The Twelve-Sukkah, by Yong-In Kim, Nicolas Vernoux-Thélot and Moonyong Jeong of Paris, France, APoC by Simon Kim, Mariana Ibañez and Ben Ruswick of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Hexagram by Otoniel Solis and Alfredo Noyola of North Hills, California and Megillahs by Troy Fawcett of Calgary, Alberta.
You can learn more about Sukkahville and their affordable housing advocacy by visiting their website. Want to get involved in the discussion? Comments can be left in the space provided at the bottom of this page.