Canstruction: It’s that time again

Event: Canstruction; 15th Annual Design/Build Competition Awards Gala
Location: New York Design Center, 11.08.07 (exhibition through 11.21.07)
Organizers: The Society for Design Administration; AIANY; The New York Design Center


(l-r): “Best Structure”: Tree by Platt Byard Dovell White; and “Best Labels”: Decoding Hunger by JCJ Architecture; “Honorable Mention”: D-CAN-A by Gilsanz Murray Steficek.

(l-r): Matthew J. Lalli; Matthew J. Lalli; Amy Tsim

Canstruction is an annual event where teams of architects, engineers, and other design/construction-related firms disobey the axiom, “Don’t play with your food.” Challenged to conceive structures created solely out of cans and other food products, these virtuosos never cease to amaze with their gravity-defying feats of visual canplexity.

While Canstruction is first and foremost a charity donating all food proceeds to City Harvest, it is also an impassioned competition among the participants, many of whom have entered for more than 10 years. Though many of the designs are whimsical, some integrate social commentary. Gensler’s More Than Just “TwoCANS” Feeding, a team led by yours truly, exhibits a mother toucan feeding her chick. Butler Rogers Baskett Architects’ An UnBEARable Truth incorporates the world’s environmental crisis with two polar bears surviving a melting ice cap.

There are also eye-catching designs that redefine structural integrity, such as Platt Byard Dovell White’s Tree. Having won the Structural Ingenuity award for the past four years, their creations always set a high bar for other entrants. This year, the structural engineering firm Gilsanz Murray Steficek met, and nearly jumped over, that bar winning an Honorable Mention for their interpretation of a DNA Helix. When asked how GMS has grown since last year, team captain Eugene Kim said that it was pre-planning, pre-builds, three-times as many volunteers, and three-times the cost.

Whereas GMS has grown from experience, “rookie of the year” JCJ Architecture depended on passion and a fresh outlook to win Best Use of Labels for its entry Decoding Hunger, a depiction of the Mona Lisa. According to Anthony Arce, AIA, principal at JCJ, “a great team building experience and a chance to give back to the community” were the reasons his firm entered. When asked about their strategy, team member Raphael Charles said, “We wanted to do something iconic.”

The Canstruction exhibition may be seen at the New York Design Center, 200 Lexington Avenue, from November 8-21. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9:00am-5:00pm. Admission: one can (or more) of food.