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Skirball banners recycled into an architectural sukkah

September 23, 2010 |  6:30 pm

Sukkah wide shotjpg The sukkah, a temporary structure built by observant Jews to celebrate the end of harvest season, is having an architecturally significant moment.

Sukkah City, a design competition launched earlier this month in New York, invited designers to re-imagine the structure. Contestants were given a list of traditional sukkah building rules.

The structure must be at least 10 handbreadths high and enclose a minimum area that's 7-by-7 handbreadths. The roof must be made of organic matter that provides shade but also allows people inside to look up and see the stars. Perhaps most important, the entire thing must be temporary.

Contest organizers received 600 entries from 43 countries. They selected 12 semifinalists to have their structures built in Union Square, where they stayed for two days while New Yorkers voted on their favorite. (New York magazine has a photo gallery of the 12 semifinalists along with descriptions of what each architect was trying to achieve.) It should come as no surprise that a scholarly book chronicling the contest is forthcoming: "Sukkah City: Radically Temporary Architecture for the Next Three Thousand Years."

Angelenos who would like to see a modern interpretation of the sukkah for themselves need not despair, however. Sukkah City inspired a creative sukkah collaboration between the Skirball Cultural Center and the architecture firm wHY. When entering the contest, wHY architect Kulapat Yantrasast, who designed the new L&M Arts gallery in Venice, asked people at the Skirball to talk to his firm about the traditional meaning of the structure. They in turn invited him to design a sukkah for their annual celebration.

Sukkah slatsjpgwHY had slightly more than a month to pull together the design, which uses materials the museum already had on hand.

"We didn't want to just recycle, we wanted to weave the past into the present," Yantrasast said. "We looked around their storage area and trash area and found what they had the most of were banners, so we used the banners to weave the walls of the sukkah."

The roof is made of palm fronds, which are traditional in Israel and, because of their abundance in L.A., traditional here too. To make the project interactive and participatory, the Skirball is inviting people to bring photos of their families to affix to the wall.

wHY's sukkah will be up through next week in the Skirball's arroyo garden.

-- Deborah Netburn

Photo: A sukkah designed by architecture firm wHY is made from old banners.

Credit: From the Skirball Center