When the folks at the Leichtag Foundation acquired a 67-acre ranch in Encinitas in 2012, they knew they wanted to use the land to engage the community in creative ways.
Last year, they invited a few architects and designers to build experimental, contemporary versions of a sukkah, a temporary structure that the Israelites used during their decades of travel after the exodus from Egypt. In Jewish culture, sukkot were also used by agricultural workers who'd construct the dwellings during harvest. The event was partly inspired by Sukkah City, an architectural-design competition that happened in New York in 2010 and saw the completion of a dozen eye-catching art installations.
This year, the Leichtag Foundation upped the ante and launched its own national sukkah design contest, offering a stipend for the top designs to be completed on the ranch. Seventeen submissions were judged by a panel that included noted San Diego architect Rob Quigley and Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne.
"We wanted designers to reimagine what these structures could be and use them as a canvas to tell a story," explains Rabbi Andy Kastner, the foundation's Jewish Food Jewish Fellowship program director. "The designers really took that on in a serious way."
The three winning sukkah designs were created by NewSchool of Architecture + Design graduate students Herencia Del Rico and Max Magac, Washington, D.C.-based designer Yoshi Silverstein and San Diego architects Chris and Sasha Varone. They were built last weekend and will be unveiled at the sold-out Sukkot at the Ranch Festival on Sunday, Oct. 12. Folks can still get a glimpse of the art installations by driving by or parking near 441 Saxony Road while the sukkot remain on view for the next few weeks (click here for details).
"We deal with pretty complex buildings on a daily basis," says Sasha Varone, whose large, seven-sided wood structure is quite striking. "For us, the sukkah is a fun way to be creative and do just pure design."