Re-Usekah brings back ancient tradition through sustainability
The Daily News
They created a Sukkah, a historical Jewish shelter, and won second place in the Sukkahville International Architectural Design Competition in Toronto, where competition came from across the globe.
This was the first time Ball State has participated in Sukkahville, which takes place during the Jewish week-long holiday Sukkot.
“Sukkahs are very much still used, they’re still a real part of the Jewish community,” said Julie Musial, a CAP graduate student. “Every year they gather in Sukkahs. It’s all still very relevant, which is a cool part of the project. It was very humbling to be a touchstone back to what’s happening in the modern Jewish faith today. That was eye-opening to see.”
Each year, the Jewish community celebrates with Sukkot, a seven-day Jewish festival commemorating their ancestors’ nomadic period after leaving Egypt, when the Israelites dwelled 40 years in the wilderness. The temporary shelters they lived in were called Sukkahs.
During Sukkot, families live in Sukkahs, eating meals or actually sleeping in the structure.
Kehilla Residential Programme of Toronto created Sukkahville in 2011 to help support the Jewish community in the Toronto area by meeting their affordable housing needs.
Mahesh Daas, chairperson of the CAP Department, said the competition gained national recognition for Ball State’s architecture college. Daas said while the group recreated an ancient structure, the project is applicable in today’s world with creating shelters from repurposed materials.
“This is how people in large parts of the world live,” Daas said. “Millions of people are living in these conditions, so how can we help this cause? Sukkahville is a great example of how architecture brings together design, community and sustainability.”
Musial said the international aspect of the competition was impressive. The winners are from Greece, while people from South America, France, Russia and other countries were a part of the project.
Over the summer, Andrea Swartz, associate professor of architecture, submitted a design for the contest. Out of the 80 submissions, hers was one of the six finalists selected.
Swartz then gathered three architecture students and a faculty colleague and began the creation of their Sukkah in her backyard. The project had been in motion since June; as plans were made, resources were found and the Sukkah was constructed. They named the project “Re-Usekah,” because the project was made of repurposed items. Recycled pallets, or stacking shelves, and daylily stalks were interwoven to create the Sukkah.
“One of my favorite aspects of the design was re-use,” said Shannon Buchanan, a senior architecture major. “Re-use is important to conserve resources and by implementing re-use we have taught the community that you can make something beautiful out of old, worn objects — in our case, it was old pallets, and reclaimed wood.”
The group participated in the festival breaking of bread, as around 60 people gathered in a Sukkah.
“We got to be a part of that — it was amazing,” Musial said. “We were so humbled to be a part of the historical and religious aspect of this. It’s empowering to students. We are going out into the real world and doing something with impact; that’s an important message for me.”
Once they arrived to Toronto, they had two and a half days to build the Sukkah on a city plaza. They found themselves surrounded by families, music and dancing, as the festival took over part of the city.
“It was fantastic to see people wandering in and out, sitting in, photographing, something we built,” Swartz said.
Swartz said it was an honor to be in second place, and it gave the group the opportunity to talk about Ball State with people from around the world.
Musial said it was the most profound thing she has done in her education.
The group had to build around several aspects that were historical, religious, environmental and architectural. Musial said during the festival, people stopped at their Sukkah and recalled old memories, of being in their great grandmother’s Sukkah.
“It reaffirmed what I want to do,” Musial said. “Getting to meet a new culture through architecture and through the festival, getting infused in this community — they’re such kind, warm people, they treated everyone like family. I can’t take a picture of it, it’s hard to write about it, or explain. It was life changing.”