About

Biblical in origin, the sukkah is 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. The sukkah is a means of ceremonially practicing homelessness, while at the same time remaining deeply rooted. It calls on us to acknowledge the changing of the seasons, to reconnect with an agricultural past, and to take a moment to dwell on--and dwell in--impermanence.

Historically, the sukkah's permanent recurrence is not as a monument, archetype, or typology, but as a set of precise parameters. The basic constraints seem simple: 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.

'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.

One structure will be chosen by New Yorkers to stand and delight throughout the week-long festival of Sukkot as the People's Choice Sukkah of New York City. The process and results of the competition, along with construction documentation and critical essays, will be published in the forthcoming book "Sukkah City: Radically Temporary Architecture for the Next Three Thousand Years."

Selected entries will also be displayed in an exhibit at the Center for Architecture in New York City during September 2010.

Next year, Sukkah City will expand from New York City to cities all around the world. If your community would like to be part of Sukkah City 2011, please contact us at sukkahcity@gmail.com.

Somerules

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    • A whale may be used to make a sukkah's walls. Also a living elephant.

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    • The sukkah must enclose a minimum area of at least 7 x 7 square handbreadths.

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    • A sukkah may be built on top of a camel.

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    • If the sukkah has only 2 complete walls, and they face each other, a third wall of at least 4 handbreadths must be within 3 handbreadths of one of the complete walls.

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    • The roof cannot be made of bundles of straw or sticks that are tied together (although untied straw or sticks may be okay).

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    • The roof cannot be made of utensils, or anything conventionally functional when it is not part of a sukkah.

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    • There is no maximum area, except in NYC where any structure larger than 19 x 8 feet is not considered temporary by the DOB.

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    • The roof cannot be made of food.

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    • The sukkah must have at least 3 walls, but the third doesn't need to be complete. The walls must remain unshaken by a steady wind.

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    • At night, one must be able to see the stars from within the sukkah, through the roof.

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    • The sukkah must have a roof made of schach: the leaves and/or branches of a tree or plant.

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    • If there are only 2 complete walls, and they form a corner, a third wall of at least 1 handbreadth must be within 3 handbreadths of one of the complete walls.

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    • A sukkah may be built on a boat.

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    • A sukkah may be built on a wagon.

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    • A sukkah may be built in a tree, like a treehouse. But it cannot be built under a tree, or any overhanging surface.

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    • In day, the roof must provide more shade than sunshine. Its individual construction elements must be less than 4 handbreadths in width.

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    • The sukkah must draw the eye up to its roof, and to the sky beyond.

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    • The roof must be made from something that once grew in the ground, and is no longer attached to the earth.

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    • The sukkah must be at least 10 handbreadths tall, but no taller than 20 cubits.

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    • The base of the walls must be within 3 handbreadths of the ground, but need not reach the roof.