Sukkah City

[Image: The official poster for Sukkah City by Jason Hutt].

A documentary film about the Sukkah City design competition from 2010 is finally on its way into the public eye, with a free outdoor premiere this weekend in New York City's Union Square.

The filmmaker, Jason Hutt, will be on hand for the 7pm screening, and two further showings are planned for Monday and Tuesday of next week at Manhattan's Jewish Community Center.

A short trailer for the film appears below:



I had the pleasure of serving on the design jury for the competition, which I still think back to fondly as it was an absolutely brilliant premise for an architectural competition.

The sukkah itself is, in the words of competition organizer Joshua Foer, "an ephemeral, elemental shelter, erected for one week each fall, in which it is customary to share meals, entertain, sleep, and rejoice. Ostensibly the sukkah's religious function is to commemorate the temporary structures that the Israelites dwelled in during their exodus from Egypt, but it is also about universal ideas of transience and permanence as expressed in architecture."

For an architect, the constraints are both inspiring and extraordinary:
the structure must be temporary, have at least two and a half walls, be big enough to contain a table, and have a roof made of shade-providing organic materials through which one can see the stars. Yet a deep dialogue of historical texts intricately refines and interprets these constraints—arguing, for example, for a 27 x 27 x 38-inch minimum volume; for a maximum height of 30 feet; for walls that cannot sway more than one handbreadth; for a mineral and botanical menagerie of construction materials; and even, in one famous instance, whether it is kosher to adaptively reuse a recently deceased elephant as a wall. (It is.) The paradoxical effect of these constraints is to produce a building that is at once new and old, timely and timeless, mobile and stable, open and enclosed, homey and uncanny, comfortable and critical.
You can see the final, realized constructions in Union Square here:



The free screening is at 7pm on Sunday, September 22, on the north end of Union Square. Hope to see some of you there.

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