Telling Hunger to Can It

By on Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Some say you have to suffer for your art. But at the World Financial Center in downtown Manhattan, it’s art that’s helping to stop the suffering.

This is the idea behind Canstruction–the global, annual series of art installations now in its 18th year. The New York exhibit makes use of about 100,000 cans of food to create 25 unique sculptures on display from November 11th through the 22nd daily from 10am to 6pm just above the palm-tree studded Winter Garden at the World Financial Center–right in time for that most edible of holidays, Thanksgiving. Says Canstruction’s co-chair, Michele Maestri, “It brings to light the worldwide hunger crisis and is a way for the design community to respond to that issue on a local level.”

But while it might sound like a nice, quirky little distraction to check out on your lunch break, the work that goes into making one of these is no small feat. It takes 25 teams of architects and engineers to create these self-suspending, incredibly intricate, larger-than-life works, which are done in one night. Before that, tack on another 3 months of think-tank time and trial and error to come up with just the right ingredients to make the sculpture work. Finally, they’re put to the test by a panel of judges–this year’s roster included such food luminaries as chef Rocco DiSpirito, Food & Wine‘s Gail Simmons and Cynthia Kracauer, the managing director for the American Institute of Architects in New York–for a little food-friendly competition. Announced Tuesday, November 16, this year’s winners were gravity-defying display ingenuity, like Paint the Town Fed, composed of 4,444 cans to feed an estimated 2,300 people, by Dattner Architects:

FEASTer Island, made up of 2,500 cans that will feed an estimated 1,300 New Yorkers by Leslie E. Roberston Associates:

and the 3,472 cans in BabushCAN, which will feed about 2,000 people, by Thornton Tomasetti:

After it’s over, the sculptures will be dismantled, the cans donated to food rescue organization City Harvest, who, in a totally can-tastic display of altruism, will distribute them to hungry New Yorkers in all five boroughs. At the site, they are also accepting can donations, so if you’ve got an extra 14 oz.’er of pumpkin or green beans, bring it on by. And Happy Thanksgiving.

Written by Amy Zavatto

Amy Zavatto, Toque's East Coast editor, is a food, wine, spirits and travel writer for books and magazines.

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