Kyle May and Scott Abrahams of New York took the Torah’s mandate to create a roof "made of things that grow from the ground" quite literally, designing a roof made from the one-ton trunk of an oak. "When the crane lifted the log into place, I didn’t know if it would smash the whole thing to smithereens," May told us. Happily, it held. If Philip Johnson had been a Jew, this is what his sukkah would’ve looked like.

Shim Sukkah

Tinder.Tinker, from Sagle, Idaho created a sukkah made of the homeliest of building materials, the humble shim. In fact, 8,200 of them. Designed by David Getty, Matthew Jacobs, and Stephanie Gunawan, the Shim Sukkah will be on display at The Center for Architecture through Oct. 30.

Sukkah of the Signs

Clearly the most emotionally evocative sukkah is Ronald Rael’s and Virginia San Fratello’s ramshackle oddity composed entirely of signs bought from street people -- fitting since a sukkah represents a ceremonial homelessness.

Blo Puff

This weird, alien-looking bubble pod from Brooklyn’s Bittertang is designed to insulate against the distractions of the surrounding city. The roof has eucalyptus leaves that shade and perfume the interior; Spanish moss hangs inside.


This sukkah, designed by Dale Suttle, So Sugita and Ginna Nguyen of New York, looks like a bunch of pick-up sticks taking off for winter migration, right?

In Tension

Easily the most transportable of the dwellings, So-Il’s sukkah is a simple design of poles, a net, and some greenery. You could probably take it on the subway, and celebrate in a different borough every night.


Holy blowfish! Designed by Matthias Karch of Berlin, this sukkah is based on the "universal knot" invented by German-Jewish engineer Konrad Wachsmann, and made of wood from Israeli olive trees, and American walnut and maple trees.

Single Thread

Matter Practices’ sukkah is created from single spool of wire, unraveled around a temporary bamboo frame. Once the spool is completely unwound, the bamboo is removed, leaving a porous structure topped with a roof of flowers.

Star Cocoon

This sukkah embraces the Passover commandment to dine while reclining. Designer Volkan Alkanoglu, from L.A., envisioned this sukkah as a place for meditation. It’s constructed entirely of bent cane and rattan.


The only things missing from this modernist construction are a Vitra table and a chandelier from Flos. Designed by Peter Sagar, a British student, it affords him the gilt-edged resume line of having "built something in New York," as he told us.

Fractured Bubble

Winner of the People’s Choice award, the "Fractured Bubble" sukkah, made of phragmites, an invasive species of marsh grass from Queens, was designed by Henry Grosman and Babak Bryan of Long Island City. While there were likely no marsh grasses in the Sinai, this sukkah might have sparked Moses’ memory of being found in the bull rushes. Or maybe this was a meditation on the transient nature of any real estate bubble…


12 Wacky Holy Shelters Arrive in New York's Union Square [Slideshow]

Sukkahs, the shelters that Jews annually build to celebrate the harvest festival of Sukkot, are flimsy pieces of work meant to symbolize the transience of life. Traditionally, they're made with poles, slats, and landscaping refuse (whatever branches came down during the latest windstorm or whatever vegetation is turning brown in the garden). But the sukkahs now appearing in Union Square -? the finalists in an international competition — ramp up that handiwork to the level of architectural artistry. Imagine Rem Koolhaas building a yurt, and you'll get the picture.

[A video by our friends at Architizer]

Sukkah City, the temporary "tent city," got underway Sunday night, after the shofar was blown, signaling the end of Yom Kippur. Construction teams descended on New York's Union Square, to cobble together a dozen fanciful dwellings (11 pictured here), culled from more than 600 entries from 43 countries. The jury included international heavyweights Ron Arad, Michael Arad, Rick Bell, Thom Mayne, and Paul Goldberger. On Monday evening, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the People's Choice winner: "Fractured Bubble," a spherical explosion of marsh grasses created by Long Island City architects Henry Grosman and Babak Bryan.

A traditional sukkah is meant to be simple. It's a place to share a meal, entertain, and maybe camp out for a night. Yet, the rules for building an authentic sukkah are quite strict — and prompted no shortage of kibitzing among viewers who argued the merits (and failings) of each on Sunday in the Square.

First off, a sukkah must be temporary. No foundations! It must have at least two and a half walls, and be big enough to hold a table. Its roof must be composed of organic material, and be porous enough to see the stars. But, of course, these strictures have been the launching point for all sorts of Talmudic debate, including whether it's kosher to reuse a dead elephant for a wall. (It is.)

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