New Installation at World Trade Center Cultivates Symbols of Remembrance and Renewal
A bit of wisdom often attributed to Confucius holds that, “if your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children.” By this yardstick, Lower Manhattan, where half a dozen high-performing schools have opened in recent years, has the century plan covered, and is doing reasonably well in the decennial stakes, with hundreds of trees flourishing along the Esplanade, in the Battery, and around the World Trade Center campus. But Downtown has been woefully deficient on a per-annum basis — until now.
On Thursday, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (which manages the World Trade Center complex) unveiled Rice Paddy — a living, growing installation that will incubate five varieties of rice between now and the Harvest Moon Festival in late September, when dozens of chefs will gather at the site to create unique, original dishes designed to be an homage to rice.
Located on the outdoor plaza along the southern side of the Oculus, the structure of the three-tiered Rice Paddy, which is crafted from sustainable materials and incorporates eco-friendly practices, is also designed to offer seating for dozens of passersby. Behind the serpentine benches are shallow pools that will nurture rice seedlings, with each one producing up to 3,000 grains.
The installation was created by a partnership between the Port Authority and Danielle Chang, the founder of LuckyRice, an Asian food festival that began in New York and later spread to cities around the world.
“Rice paddies are a common sight in Asia, yet foreign to many New Yorkers,” observes Ms. Chang. “Our public-art installation follows small rice seedlings as they go through the life-giving transformation that feeds much of the planet, and that symbolizes luck, fortune, fertility and global connections through culture and food.”
The Rice Paddy will raise five varieties of the staple that feeds more of the world’s population than any other: one each from Italy (Purple Jamon Upland Rice), Japan (Yukikihari Lowland Rice), Madagascar (Mamoriaka Upland Rice), Uzbekistan (Amaura Upland Rice), and America with origins in Africa and Indonesia (Carolina Gold Rice). They will reach nearly five feet tall by the end of the growing season, when local students and volunteers will be invited to assist with the harvest.
The Rice Paddy installation seeks to evoke a universal resonance by elevating a humble grain of rice into a bold and visually arresting statement that celebrates Asian heritages and the significance of the world’s most widely consumed food source, grown in the heart of Downtown’s urban streetscape. But there is also a specific local connection: rice paddies are symbolic of remembrance and renewal — themes that echo through the World Trade Center, and will do so with special plangency in the month of September.
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