Aerial Sandwiches

By the end of this month, Subway, the ubiquitous and mediocre American sandwich chain, will have installed a franchise on top of a crane. According to the New York Post, the shop will be “fitted into a shipping container-like structure,” which will then be attached to one of the cranes being used on the Freedom Tower construction site.

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IMAGE: Cranes building the Freedom Tower in Manhattan. Photo courtesy Mark Lennihan, AP. Note for the practically-minded: the steel box containing the Subway franchise will also contain a toilet.

“This will allow construction workers to stay in the tower throughout their shift rather than having to go up and down,” Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman told the Post. As the Freedom Tower rises to its full 1,776 ft, so will the crane, which would then make the crane operator’s lunch commute unfeasibly long: aerial sandwich availability is a simple strategy to keep construction on schedule.

Chicken Teriyaki

IMAGE: The Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sandwich, from Subway’s website.

Sadly, the Post does not go into the logistical details of running a Subway shop on top of a crane. Will the bread be “baked fresh,” as per the brand promise? How often will veggies be brought up, and waste be brought down? And will a Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sub taste the same, perched on a steel lattice a third of a mile above Manhattan? After all, the events company Dinner in the Sky claims it can “transform an ordinary meal or meeting into a magical moment,” by dangling your table from a crane a mere fifty metres (164 ft) above the ground.

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Dinner in the sky diagram

IMAGE: Dinner in the Sky® hoists a nine-metre by five-metre platform into the sky, which can hold up to twenty-two guests and five staff members. A second platform can hold a three-piece quartet, magician, or cheer leading troupe, as desired. Note for the practically-minded: the platform has to be lowered each time a guest wishes to use the toilet. It apparently takes less than a minute to lower the entire table. Photos from the Dinner in the Sky® website.

If the stories and reflections of crane operators in London can serve as any guide, the cabin of tower cranes offers a unique perspective on time, cities, and solitude – so why not sandwiches, as well? The award-winning short documentary City of Cranes captures crane drivers talking about riding out storms (“if you can imagine a rollercoaster ride, you know it’s scary but you still want to do it”), interacting with other cranes (“it’s almost like a ballet … but if you said [that], you’d most likely get a rude answer over the radio”), and the ever-changing skyline (“I’m seeing now buildings come down that I helped put up twenty years ago”). I can only hope that the Freedom Tower crane operators start a lunch blog, or at least a twitter feed.

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IMAGES: Stills from the City of Cranes documentary.

I’m also reminded of a story I read a year ago on BLDGBLOG, about a “fearless” Keralan crane operator working on the Burj Dubai, who hadn’t come down to earth in over a year – apparently “it takes too long to come down to ground level each day to make it worthwhile.” The post goes on to reflect on a fascinating question: how do people create and experience domestic space within infrastructural extremes, from lighthouses to jungle radar monitor stations, and from offshore oil platforms to South African gold mines? And what does it mean to install a kitchen, or at the least, assemble Subway sandwiches, in such environments?

[NOTE: Thanks to Geoff Manaugh (BLDGBLOG), who tweeted about City of Cranes in August. As I found out after writing this post, he also posted about Dinner in the Sky® back in July 2006 – as always, well worth a read.]
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4 Comments

  1. Posted January 5, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    If you haven’t seen the Subway container already, the PANYNJ has some photos of it and a video of its hoisting. I wonder if the job site now smells of crappy bread.

  2. Posted December 21, 2009 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    A canteen in Brunelleschi’s dome—that’s wonderful.

    When I think of kitchens in extremis, space travel comes especially to mind. I find the domestic and culinary life of Apollo especially strange and charming—there’s much more to it than Tang. Eugene Cernan, who commanded the final Apollo mission, talked about how he worked & lived on the moon for three days; with Harrison Schmidt, he made a tidy home of the Lunar Module…

  3. jason
    Posted November 23, 2009 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    but what if the workers don’t like subway? can they hoist up half-a-dozen containers and set up a whole food court up there?

  4. Posted November 22, 2009 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    From memory, when working on Brunelleschi’s dome for the Florence Cathedral, a canteen was built amongst the superstructure so that work wouldn’t be interrupted by lunch. I presume I remember this from Ross King’s book on the dome.

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