TORONTO — The Kehilla Residential Programme will hold its fourth annual “Sukkahville” international design competition at Nathan Phillips Square in downtown Toronto Oct. 14 and 15 to draw attention to the issue of affordable housing in the Toronto area.
Narrowed down from 80 submissions, eight finalists from all over the world, including two Canadian entries, will present their unique sukkah designs.
Ryerson University architectural science students Daniel Bassakyros, 20, Nivin Nabeel, 24, and Louise Shin, 19, are members of a team that made it to the final round of the competition.
Their sukkah structure, titled Cloud and Light, was inspired by the pillars of cloud and fire mentioned in the book of Exodus.
“We reinterpreted the traditional meaning of cloud and fire into something that speaks to the city and modern life. It redefines the idea of cloud as day and fire as night, and instead treats digital light as a new fire,” Bassakyros said.
“Just like the pillars were used to guide the Israelites through the desert, our sukkah acts as a beacon and invites users to enter into its protective enclosure.”
Bassakyros added that what might stand out most about their structure is its height – it stands nearly five metres high.
He said they used Tyvek, a paper-like material that’s primarily used during construction to provide a water barrier between the outer cladding of a structure and the frame, and is hidden from view.
“We’ve exposed it, revealing the undiscovered properties that it has when light shines through it. The effect is quite spectacular because of the translucent fibrous quality it has – the end result is it gives the interior a cloud-like ambiance. Each side of the Sukkah has four amber light shelves that are meant to wash the interior with a warm glow, which will be more visible at night,” he said.
The other Canadian finalist is Troy Fawcett, a 23-year-old Calgary native in his second year at the University of Toronto’s master’s program in architecture.
Fawcett said he was compelled to enter the competition because he wanted to see one of his designs go beyond sketches and renderings.
“I liked the idea of being able to build a design… I felt it could change how I approach the design process,” he said, adding that he had never before heard of a sukkah before accepting the Sukkahville challenge.
“I had to do a bit of research,” he said with a laugh.
Fawcett’s design, called Megillahs, is inspired by Jewish scrolls.
“When I was researching, I found the idea of the sukkah very interesting. I thought the idea of it was a kind of paradox. It needs to be open, yet closed. Stable, yet temporary. I was thinking of those ideas and also the idea of the scrolls and how they represent Jewish teaching. I kind of wanted to borrow that idea and use [a similarly shaped]-object as a building material,” Fawcett explained.
Two of the sukkah’s walls will be made of rounded wooden dowels, he said.
“There are going to be two benches in the middle of the structure so you can walk in and sit on them. You’re basically going to be surrounded by two walls made of loose-weave burlap mesh that has been layered a bunch of times, and then on the other side, [will be] a complete wooden wall,” Fawcett said.
“I liked the idea of layering and… with the burlap mesh I’m using, when that starts to aggregate it creates enclosure, but at the same time it still feels open because it is layered with a loose material.”
He said in addition to helping students hone their architectural design skills, this competition is also a good way to raise awareness about the issue of poverty and affordable housing.
“Nathan Phillips Square is in a really populated area, and having these structures there will be a big attraction, I think. It’s a great way to draw people in and get them more excited about the subject.”