How Ms. Joan Tom, an ex-investment banker from Goldman Sachs, came to be building a Sukkah in Union Square in the middle of the night is an excellent question. Like many a good Asian child, Joan graduated from Harvard, worked for Goldman, and then a hedge fund. But like an Asian child of the new millennium, she decided to explore her latent creative side. Babak Bryan, one of the co-designers of the “Fractured Bubble” sukkah (which won the Sukkah City competition) was her critic in an architecture studio at Columbia University GSAPP last year.
She spent a week constructing “Fractured Bubble,” and the tasks ranged from weaving twine into panels of wood, collecting phragmites from Flushing Meadows Park with grass whips (“the bastard lovechild of a golf club and serrated machete,” says Joan of the whips), de-leafing the phragmites in Gowanus and finally a midnight installation in Union Square. Accustomed to little sleep from studio, she says allergies turned out to be more of the issue: “Babak and Abby, our project manager, were totally allergic to the phragmites! Before they were de-leafed, you could hear Babak sneezing from down the street. And Abby had to wear a mask to deal with the pollen. I felt really bad for them. But it was sort of funny – they were allergic to their own Sukkah!”
In her slideshow of photos, she captures the entire process as well as the other Sukkahs featured in Union Square. Overall, Joan says, “It was the type of project where while the architects were incredibly grateful to have the volunteer help, the volunteers were equally grateful to have the opportunity to be part of making such a cool design reality.”