Fighting Hunger—Can by Can

By Monica Michael Willis | Updated Jul 31, 2020 2:12 PM

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Canstruction "Loaded Dice" Gensler-WSP-Flack + Kurtz

“Loaded Dice” by Gensler and WSP-Flack+Kurtz. Photo: Annabel Willis

At the 19th Annual Canstruction Design/Build Competition—an art show and food drive benefiting City Harvest—some of New York City’s finest architects, designers, and engineers create whimsical sculptures made entirely from canned goods!

Last Thursday night, 25 teams of volunteer architects, designers, and engineers gathered at the World Financial Center to kick off Canstruction, an annual building competition and food drive sponsored by the Society of Design Administration and the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Instead of bricks and mortar, the design wizards worked into the wee hours of the night creating giant, self-supporting structures using canned goods ranging from green beans and Spam to pineapple rings and black olives.

By dawn, everything from super-sized footwear (“Giving Hunger the Boot”) to a clock tower (“Time to End Hunger”) to a marvelous rendition of the Brooklyn Bridge, aptly titled “Suspending Hunger,” had taken shape. There was a curvaceous sea horse made of alternating layers of blue and gold tins of tuna, and gigantic dice that required five tons of canned goods to complete—enough food to provide a “square” meal for more than 5,000 people.

To exemplify the need to stomp out hunger, one group took Alexander McQueen’s iconic lobster claw shoe—famously worn by Lady Gaga—as their inspiration, cheekily reconstructing the high-heeled bootie out of 1,200 cans of Le Sueur peas and carrots. Other standouts included an enormous rendition of the popular Angry Bird game character, a CANtainer ship, and the TiCANic. And for the first time in the New York City event’s history, a group of 19 students from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Manhattan competed under the mentorship of architect Sandra Forman. Their entry, “Strike Out Hunger,” included jumbo bowling pins and a bowling ball, and included 4,041 cans. “The kids started working on the project in August, and they did a lot of fundraising, including selling a t-shirt they designed themselves, to raise the money to buy the canned goods,” said music teacher Yeou-Jey Hsu, the students’ advisor on the project.

A nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1993, Canstruction currently sponsors competitions in more than 100 cities across America and abroad. Since its inception, the group has donated more than 10 million cans of food to organizations working to fight hunger. At the conclusion of the New York City event, all canned goods will be given to City Harvest, making it the largest one-time donation the hunger-relief nonprofit receives annually.

Located at the World Financial Center at 200 Vesey Street in Battery Park City, the Canstruction Design/Build Competition is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily until November 21. Admission is free, but attendees are asked to bring a can of food to contribute. To learn more, visit the canstruction site.

For highlights from the New York City Canstruction Competition, check out this CANstruction: A Can-do Design Competition slideshow