Sunday, September 19, 2010

Early Sunday Morning in Union Square: Setting Up "Sukkah City" at Union Square Park

We got to Union Square at 7:45 a.m. today to see Sukkah City, an astonishing display of innovative, radical and imaginative takes on the sukkah unlike anything we've ever seen in Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Borough Park or Miami Beach

- and way more interesting the sukkahs we've been in, like the one from our childhood at Flatbush Park Jewish Center in Mill Basin; the one from the 1970s outside Whitehead Hall at Brooklyn College; the one we saw in Fort Lauderdale outside the law school at Nova Southeastern University, where we were an administrator for years;

or the primitive but functional one we helped Rabbi Elena Kanter and students build in 2005, when we taught at Jess Schwartz Jewish Community High School on the grounds of Temple Chai in Phoenix.

Over 600 designers in 43 countries, entered the competition to create a new kind of sukkah, and setting up at Union Square this morning were eleven of the twelve finalists selected by a distinguished panel of judges. (One finalist, P.YGROS.C, by the Brooklyn architecture and design practice THEVERYMANY, fell apart trying to get here on the BQE.)

Some of the Sukkah City sukkahs were already in place when we got out of the L train, but others were still being constructed by the teams who designed them.

All the entrants had to conform to the requirements of the sukkah structure laid down in Jewish law (though as secular atheists, we're not sure if the rules are stricter the more frum you are).

In the brochure, the Sukkah City people wrote:
The sukkah invites us to think, to feel, and to remember. It asks us to confront the impermanence of our lives, to reconnect with an agricultural past, and to experience for a week what it means to live without a solid roof overhead.

So you don't put up a mezuzah on a sukkah doorpost, we're guessing. Maybe because there isn't a doorpost?

These sukkahs had names like "Star Cocoon," "In Tension," "Fractured Bubble," "Log," "Sukkah of the Signs," "Time/Timeless," "Shim Sukkah," "Blo Puff," "Repetition Meets Difference," "Gathering," and "Single Thread"

- all of them created by brilliant design firms or individuals. You can learn more at the Sukkah City website and vote for your favorite at New York Magazine, although you really need to see them in person because the representations don't do justice to the real things in Union Square, which will be gone soon.

In keeping with the themes of the sukkah, these structures will be auctioned off by Housing Works, with all proceeds supporting homelessness initatives in the city. Thanks to the folks who developed Sukkah City, and there's going to be an even bigger Sukkah City 2011, we hear.

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