A group looks to a Jewish tradition for answers to today's housing problems.
Sukkahville is Toronto’s newest up-and-coming neighbourhood. This weekend, it will bring five different models of temporary home to Mel Lastman Square in a bid to call attention to the latest trends in housing: sleek architectural design, use of organic materials, and extreme affordability.
Now in its second year, Sukkahville is a project run by Kehilla Residential Programme, the housing arm of the United Jewish Agency. By focusing on temporary architecture, Kehilla hopes to find a permanent solution to Toronto’s lack of affordable housing. (Sukkahville was also inspired by Sukkah City, a just-for-fun design competition in New York in 2010.)
Starting Sunday, Sukkahville’s structures will be on display for anyone to visit and enjoy until October 3. They’re supposed to resemble sukkot, which are temporary outdoor shacks traditionally built by observant Jews during Sukkot, a fall holiday that celebrates food and agriculture.
One of the structures in Mel Lastman Square looks like a fort of white balloons floating away, while another looks like a prickly, hollowed-out half of a durian. A third is dubbed “Sukkanoe.” Its smooth, wooden body is a nod to Canada’s favourite watercraft. (The structures will be for sale, for anyone interested.)
Design proposals for Sukkahville came from all over the world—even from as far away as India and Tunisia—but this year all five finalists hail from North America. (One proposal is from Torontonians Craig Deebank and Gina Gallaugher.) Creativity and innovation were encouraged, but all designers had to follow some rules similar to the ones Jews observe when they build their sukkot: all designs had to be free-standing, each roof had to be made out of organic material but couldn’t use wire, each roof had to admit starlight, and each structure had to be taller than 38 inches but shorter than 30 feet.
Sukkahville isn’t without its own local celebrities. The panel of judges includes Ken Greenburg, a well-known Toronto architect and urban designer, and Christopher Hume, the architecture and urban issues columnist for the Toronto Star.
But the real issue here is the housing market in Toronto. With the Jewish community numbering around 200,000, Kehilla says that around 10 per cent of that population lives in insufficient housing. The organization hopes to raise $100,000 for its rental assistance program, which will go directly to subsidizing rent for those who need it in the Jewish community. Many people in the heavily Jewish Bathurst Street corridor dedicate 50 to 70 per cent of their income to rent alone.
In May The Stop organized a similar project. They paired architectural designers with food vendors to create pop-up food stalls.
Pop-up architecture is a growing trend, and one that is often seen as a way of getting attention and encouraging local community participation.
Kehilla will have an opening ceremony for Sukkahville at Mel Lastman Square on Sunday, starting at noon and ending at 4 p.m.. It will include speeches from several keynote speakers and music from the Klezconnection.
All images from the Kehilla Facebook Page.