Sukkah City St. Louis
Architects, designers and students from around the country traveled to St. Louis this week to construct their winning designs in the Sukkah City St. Louis concept and design competition.
A Sukkah is a temporary structure connected with the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. It provides shelter while connecting inhabitants with nature.
“At once, we celebrate the refugee personality of the Israelites, the Exodus from Egypt and then on the other hand, the bounty of the harvest,” said Silk Foundation Campus Rabbi Andy Kastner, one of the organizers of the event.The 10 competition finalists began to assemble their structures on Sunday. Despite inclement weather on Monday and Tuesday, nearly all of them were complete in time for the competition’s public reception on Tuesday evening.
The Sukkahs, constructed on the Women’s Building Lawn, will remain there through Oct. 22.
The competition, entitled “Defining and Defying Boundaries,” sought to incite a conversation about human interaction and the boundaries people construct.
“We really wanted to, with this experience, with the holiday and with the competition, to take what could be a narrow, provincial, religious experience and expand it to be a broader, universal conversation,” Kastner said.
Each of the 10 finalists’ structures represents a unique interpretation of the competition’s theme.
“Each team was invited to re-imagine this ancient structure and use it as a canvas to express a narrative of the way boundaries define what it means to be human,” Kastner said at Tuesday evening’s reception.The “Story Cubes,” design, for instance, drew inspiration from the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and seeks to engage people interactively by allowing them to write responses to questions printed on colorful cubes placed throughout the structure’s cubby-style walls.
A pair of architects who attended Washington University as undergraduates and are now principals at Emery McClure Architecture in Lafayette, La., hoped to reflect the ancient tradition of the celebration of Sukkot in their design, named after the Hebrew “Tené,” a traditional harvest basket.
“We were interested because it’s a really simple idea, just to create a simple shelter that’s temporary, but it’s based on a really complex heritage and story, and so how do you mediate the simplicity of structure but also take in the cultural tradition of building a Sukkah?” architect Ursula Emery McClure said.
Sukkah City St. Louis was based on the original Sukkah City competition held in New York City in 2010.
Rules and regulations for this competition included stipulations that the roof must be made of natural materials and should allow those inside to see the stars at night.
The St. Louis competition received over 40 design submissions from around the country, and one from India.
A jury of architects, critics, thinkers and writers sorted through these submissions to select the 10 finalists. Bruce Lindsey, the dean of the College of Architecture, chaired the jury.
In his remarks at the opening reception Tuesday evening, Lindsey spoke of the impressions about the concept of the Sukkah that he developed during the experience of the competition.
“The Sukkah is a space to ceremonially practice homelessness, in a way, and in that sense, it’s an architecture of both memory and empathy,” he said.
Lindsey encouraged everyone at the reception to have dinner in a Sukkah some time during the week.
He also shared his thoughts on the concept of building, and its relation to competition.
“One of the most amazing things that architects realize when they build structures, is that they’re building other things as they build those structures at the same time. They build relationships and connections, and they’re building communities, cities, neighborhoods…It’s wonderful to see that spirit exhibited in these incredible structures,” Lindsey said.