-The above selected images were produced throughout the design process of the Sukkah City competition. The model was constructed parametrically in Rhino Grasshopper to stack cylindrical tubes in an irregular shifting grid, both to account for built-in furniture as well as extruded symbols on exterior walls. The tubes are exported from the Grasshopper definition to an Excel spreadsheet where length of tube, midpoint, and angles of cuts are documented. The initial materiality of the project was chosen for its reuse, this came in the form of acid-free cardboard tubes leftover from newspaper printing plants (also known as “end-rolls”). Below are the notes which led the trajectory for the project:
Sukkah City | Notes on the NY: suK²ah
…is defined by the relation of signal to noise;
…is a statistical measure of the uncertainty or entropy of a system;
…implies a nonlinear and nondeterministic relationship between the microscopic and macroscopic levels of a physical system. ¹
“Providing the electronic environments that best support flexible, unplanned, collectively self-organized modes of information extraction, retrieval, and organization is immensely important if we are to press maximal benefit from the burgeoning web of human knowledge.” ²
HISTORICALLY the Sukkot marks the conclusion of the harvest season for the Jewish practitioner, where the Sukkah becomes the transient shelter, constructed from the fruitful bounty of the Earth which has provided organic produce from the seasonal crops. The Sukkah City, to be set within a portion of the sprawling megalopolis of New York City, rarely harbors a resident who has adequate access to fresh produce directly from the farmland, let alone the personal agricultural experience of a successful harvest season. As the city swarms with increasing populations, space becomes a rare and exclusive commodity, where even a Sukkah has little space endowed for its being. Those who wish to construct Sukkahs within this context must undertake a creative outlook for their personal religious festivities; from porches to balconies, streets to rooftop, and where exterior space is at a premium, some straying from the outdoors altogether, become a purely interior experiential ritual. How then does the ritual of the Sukkah morph from its past affiliations, presently in a world of increasing globalization, especially in the dense urban hive of New York City where the typical inhabitant has neither access to local crops, land, or harvests of their own? What then becomes the encapsulating organic matter that is to be subtracted from the Earth which one is to use as scatch for the covering of the shelter? However negated the fruits of these crops may be within the urban context, in essence all matter within a closed loop system is once removed from the Earth, a fluctuating cycle of living and decaying organic substance.
WHAT then become the abundant local materials within this concrete jungle which would pay homage to such a transient religious structure? The city is thus a conglomeration of concrete, steel, and trash. Some architectural practitioners and theorists believe that in a world of excessive material waste the near-future of our built environment [architecturally] will coalesce in the conglomeration of the world’s trash, where the wastes of a capitalist society enter into the closed-loop cycle, constantly fluctuating between material commodity and material waste. With increased population, pollution, and a diminishing land volume, waste not concrete, wood, or steel, will become the building blocks of the twenty-first century. The Sukkah in this urban hive need convey information, an eternal story, via one person to the next. But in what ways does waste become a transmitter of information, from source to receiver; deciphering noise from signal. As Tiziana Terranova explains, ‘it is this ease of copying that makes information such a shifty, yet valuable commodity, where anybody is either a potential information source or storage device.’ ³ The homeless within American urban densities finds their materiality in the leftovers of the capitalist society–wastes and trashes repurposed to create shelter from the elements. Frugal as this may sound, there will always remain a polarity in society; where one builds out of trash with hand and sweat, the other buys online with card and gluttony. Is the future of the Sukkah in a globalized economy purely capitalistic–where the Sukkah becomes a commodity bought and sold as a medium for further advertisement in a memetic evolution for further information transmission? Sukkah’s today, pre-ordered online may be manufactured as prefabricated units; bought and sold online, rented out for the day at the hotel, or propped up within minutes within one’s own property. In a networked culture of information exchange and increasing capitalist ubiquity, where does the ambiguity of tradition cease to exist and a consumerist milieu begin?
¹ Shannon, Claude E., ‘A Mathematical Theory of Communication’, 1948
² Clark, Andy, ‘Natural-Born Cyborgs’, 2004
³ Terranova, Tiziana, ‘Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age’, 2004.
Sukkah City | Notes on the NY: suK²ah
A readily abundant material found within the cities and controversial bi-product of nineteenth-century human civilization– plastics. Given their molecular composition of polymer chains (typically hydrogen and carbon) they resist the force to biodegrade. Without the character to breakdown new ingenious ways need to be found in order to repurpose, or reuse, this synthetic compound. With plastics ability to be easily manipulated through abrasion, heat, and mould the ability to reuse this product becomes innumerable. However, within the twenty-first century and beyond leaving the industrial model of heat, beat, and treat is desirable, whereby we will look at the way nature creates materials which are superior to our own through room-temperature water and catalysts.
The Sukkah City competition charges the feat of becoming the Sukkah of the next 3000 years. This length of 3000 years far outlives the individual human, residing only within the scope of the geological time scale. Geological time-scale is determined by striations in the Earth’s crust by human geologists, and where typically decomposed organic matter has become the level of measure for the past 3000 years, future generations or species may find our geological traces within the landscapes of polymers which were compressed and formed into new striated layers of the Earth’s composition. Will polymers become the new schatch, once removed from the Earth?
“Plastics, for instance, might behave like some of the long chain organic molecules of fossil twigs and branches, or collagen in the fossilized skeletons of some marine invertebrates.” ¹
“A hundred thousand Evian bottles then might someday be transformed by compression into a new type of quartz: vast and subterranean veins of mineralized plastic. In other words, plastics will become our future geology. It may take a hundred million years, but it will happen. Future desert adventures will stumble upon belts of plastic, compressed into ribbons between layers of bedrock. Volcanoes of the future will erupt, belching transparent magma –liquid plastic – rolling out in great sheets, boiling everything in its path. Unlucky animals will be entombed as it cools, trapped in that plastic amber, fossilizing slowly over another million years, till the hardened remains of extinct species will seem to hover inside translucent hillsides, like specimens in a resinous vitrine, an open-air museum. Future Darwinians will open their sketchbooks, stunned.
After thousands of years, perhaps a forest moves in, learning to metabolize this strange rock into transparent soil. Roots grow steadily downward through what appears to be air-the ground like transparent plastic or glass- and people come out just ot sit there in the sun, watching those slow and ancient roots push deeper and deeper into the earth. Worms wriggle as if through space, leaving tunnels-underground landscapes of air. After the sun goes down, you walk out into the middle of the woods and shine a flashlight down through the surface of the earth, illuminating tangles of roots and buried streams.
Given the time and right chemical composition, these underground stratigraphies of white plastic could begin to dissolve, forming caves. Blurred and colorless stalactites will hang over subterranean lakes where blind fish swim, sensing rather than seeing the milky walls and abstract rock formations hovering all around them. A distance descendant of Steven Spielberg will direct his own version of Journey to the Center of the Earth, setting the film inside enormous tunnels of white plastic that extend tens of thousands of feet into the planet. One by one, actors lose consciousness and fall to the ground, passing out in contemplation of the apparently infinite abyss that extends for miles beneath their feet…hypnotized by the hazy white glow that comes from the very core of the planet. “²
¹ New Scientist, June 27, 1998
² Manaugh, Geoff, ‘The Bldg Blog Book’, 2009