San Antonio’s Design and Construction Community Unites to Fight Hunger with CANstruction

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The 13th edition of CANstruction is now on display at North Star Mall.

This amazing display of creativity and engineering genius was first launched in 1992 in New York. Since that first edition, this amazing charity benefitting efforts to fight hunger has spread across the United States and 30 countries. Worldwide, more than 10,000 volunteers participate every year.

Now in its 13th year in San Antonio, locally CANstruction has collected over 500,000 pounds of food for the San Antonio Food Bank.

This year’s CANstruction will once again feature imaginative large-scale sculptures made almost entirely from canned food. Designed by 10 design teams partnered with the San Antonio Food Bank, the Society for Design Administration (SDA) San Antonio Chapter, and AIA San Antonio, these unique works of art will be on display at North Star Mall from Monday, Sept. 10, through Saturday, Sept. 22.

The teams drew inspiration from video games, popular cartoon characters, and San Antonio’s own iconic architecture, turning 33,000 cans of tuna, sweet peas, pinto beans, and even sauerkraut, into unique works of art.

At the end of the exhibition, the cans will be collected and taken to the San Antonio Food Bank, where they will help feed the 58,000 families that SA Food Bank services each week.

CANstruction is an official event of Hunger Action Month. Each year in September, community dedicated to eliminating hunger literally shine a spotlight the ongoing fight against hunger by asking business across the city to “Go Orange.” Buildings across the city will be illuminated in the color orange to raise awareness of hunger and food instability in our local communities. Other Hunger Action Month events include the Restock the Shelves Campaign and Hunger Action Day on Sept. 13.

“CANstruction is a win-win opportunity for our organization,” said Jason Puchot, AIA San Antonio’s 2019 chapter president. “It offers architects a unique creative challenge that showcases their problem-solving skills, while also addressing one of the greatest challenges faced by any community – hunger.”

The design of each sculpture involves months of planning. Once teams select a theme, the next step is to select and source food cans whose labels will be integral to communicating the theme of the CANstruction. How to pay for those cans is yet another challenge for teams. The typical CANstruction sculpture uses cans valued at $3,000 or more.

Preparation for the competition is equally rigorous.

Denise Valentine of RVK Architects has participated in CANstruction for a decade. “Our process begins with members of our team presenting ideas for a sculpture,” she said. “Then, we share those ideas with the office staff, who vote for their favorites. Each vote costs one dollar. That’s how we kick off our CANstruction fundraising.”

Just as architects assemble a team of professionals for each of their projects, CANstruction also requires the participation of project partners from San Antonio’s engineering and construction community.

F.A. Nunnelly General Contractor and Lundy Franke Engineers are long-time CANstruction team members partnering with RVK Architects.

“Our firm’s experience includes projects for the SA Food Bank, so we are on board with anything we can do that supports their mission,” stated Blaine Beckman, Vice President at F.A. Nunnelly. Beckman admits to being surprised at the detail that goes into the design and preparation for just one project. “You have to think of everything, from the autoCAD design, to the structural forms that hold up the cans, and down to the specific colors of the labels on the cans you’re using.”

With an idea, teams then use design programs like Sketchup or Revit to model each type of can being used in the structure. That information helps with the final design and gives teams the ability to order the specific number of cans needed. Many teams practice building all or part of their designs to test the stability of their structures. On build day, team members rise early to haul thousands of food cans to the mall and construct their sculptures before stores open at noon. This year that effort took place during a flood-level rain event.

Judging the CANstruction entries is equally challenging. The entries are painstakingly evaluated by a panel of community leaders. This year’s judges included District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval; Dale Carse, H-E-B Construction project leader; Erin Groffman, Whataburger corporate designer; Liz Burt, SA Centro director of programming; and Stephen Williams, project manager with Clayton & Little Architects.

Awards are presented to CANstruction teams for structural ingenuity, the best use of labels, most original design, and even the most cans. Other award categories recognize the team whose CANstruction offers the best meal and the best use of the color orange. The most coveted of all awards is the Best Original Design, which ensures not only a blue ribbon for the team, but also the opportunity to have their CANstruction re-built following the exhibition in the lobby of the San Antonio Food Bank.

The 2018 CANstruction award-winners were announced at the CAN-Opener Gala, held at North Star Mall on Sept. 10, by Master of Ceremonies Jamie Martin, co-host of “KJ97 Randy, Jamie and Jojo Show.”

Awards:

  • Structural Ingenuity went to Luna Middleman for its El Luchador Mask
  • Best Meal went to Merrick & Company for its Ate Bit Donkey Kong
  • Best Use of Labels went to Marmon Mok, Metro, Jones|Carter, and Datam Engineering for their Walk Around CAN Antonio
  • Best Original Design went to Alamo Architects & Turner Construction for their “Matahambre” Matador
  • Most Cans went to RVK Architects, Lundy & Franke Engineering, and F.A. Nunnelly for their “ForKnife” Battle Hunger
  • Best use of Orange went to IES & Lopez Salas Architects for their Food Bank Mascot

The winner of Best Original Design, Alamo Architects & Turner Construction, will have their sculpture rebuilt at the SA Food Bank to be displayed for the year. All entries are also submitted to the International CANstruction Competition. Returning competitors RVK Architects and Lundy & Franke Engineering won third place for Best Original Design in last year’s international judging.

Visitors to the mall may view the sculptures and vote for the People’s Choice award from Sept. 10 through Sept. 22. The winner will be announced in the Rivard Report on Sept. 26.

Thank you to all our CANstruction Teams, the many sponsors who annually support this event, and finally to SA Food Bank, AIA San Antonio, and SDA San Antonio for their many years coordinating and supporting San Antonio’s CANstruction competition.

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