Friday, October 2, 2009

Original Intent: A student sukkah project harks back to architecture’s dawn

In time for the festival of Sukkot, here is my latest piece on Tablet: A New Read on Jewish Life.

Original Intent

A student sukkah project harks back to architecture’s dawn

by Samuel D. Gruber

Nationwide, the Sukkot holiday, and the sukkah building type are undergoing something of a renaissance. Just as tent imagery captured the imagination of Jews building suburban synagogues in the 1960s, reflecting their continuing exodus from the “old neighborhoods,” so the simple form, temporary nature, and domestic setting of the humble sukkah strikes a sympathetic chord in the today’s enviro-friendly moment. The modest domestic and social rituals of Sukkot are especially appealing after the solemnity of the Days of Awe. The transition is a natural one: on the afternoon of Yom Kippur, synagogue-goers read of Jonah sitting in his sukkah overlooking Nineveh, and tradition calls for construction of the sukkah to begin the day after Yom Kippur.

A group of undergraduate architecture students at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, followed that tradition when they rebuilt the WesSukkah this week. (The sukkah was originally erected in the spring, when it won Faith and Form Magazine’s prestigious Sacred Landscape Award.) The sukkah was envisioned as something that could operate on both interpretive and physical levels. It had to satisfy a set of halakhic requirements, but it also had to interest and excite a young audience. The result is an undulating structure of five archways of skeletal-steel framing covered in bamboo mats, through which light penetrates to provide the needed view of the sky and stars—just one of several stipulations laid down in the Mishna and Talmud regarding the building of a sukkah.
Read the whole story here....

No comments: