Succot and the City

New York - where else - will play host to some of the most bizarre booths ever seen

By Paul Berger, September 17, 2010
Modern architecture: Gathering by New York’s Dale Suttle

Modern architecture: Gathering by New York’s Dale Suttle

They come in myriad shapes and sizes from bulbous, futuristic pods to sweeping, organic forms.

Twelve finalists in an architectural competition to re-imagine the succah will land in Manhattan's Union Square Park, New York, on Sunday.

After two days, and following a popular vote, the winner of the Succah City competition will remain in the bustling square for the duration of Succot.

The contest's co-organisers, Roger Bennett and Joshua Foer, intend to work and sleep in the winning succah during the week-long festival.

‘Most are bigger than an average New York apartment’

Mr Bennett, 39, who is originally from Liverpool, said: "Most of the succahs are bigger than the average New Yorker's apartment so it will be like living in the lap of luxury for us."

The twelve final designs include "Log", a succah made of four glass walls with a single log balanced on top.

Another, called "Succah of the Signs", is built out of placards made by homeless people.

Architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello say it is an attempt to reflect the "contemporary state of homelessness and wandering within the United States".

A jury of architects, designers and critics, including Paul Goldberger and Ron Arad, had to choose between 600 entries from 43 countries.

Michael Arad, a juror who designed the National September 11 Memorial, said he was "overwhelmed and somewhat awed" by the entries.

"From a design standpoint, it's like a slice through a moment in time in design culture. The various means of presentation and construction are indicative of a broader diversity within the design world right now."

Mr Arad said the succah's essence, as a temporary form of housing, is a "fertile field" for a design competition.

"The forms, the materials, the construction means - it's so open ended," he said.

The competition was open to Jews and non-Jews, but each design had to comply with halachic guidelines.

The roof had to be made from something that once grew in the ground and the stars had to be visible through the roof at night.

The designers of "Log" had to drill holes through its rooftop so that water could pass through.

Some options were not explored - halachically speaking, it is permissible to use a whale or a living elephant
for a wall.

Finalists were each awarded $10,000 to build their design.

Peter Sagar, of London, is the sole UK finalist. Mr Sagar, 22, flew to New York last week and spent the following days hurriedly assembling thousands of pieces of wood for his entry Time/Timeless.

His succah is topped by woven willow pads and surrounded by burlap sheets that will flap in the breeze.

"The succah has a nomadic quality to it," he said.

"So, I wanted to play with the idea of something permanent but impermanent, like a ghost."

    Last updated: 11:15am, September 17 2010