Area Firms Showcase Creative Talents in CANstruction

Exhibit displays fantastic structures made from cans of food.

In just 12 hours on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 16 teams of Kansas City architects, engineers and contractors showed off their can-do spirit creating amazing structures using cans of food in the Union Station lobby. There were igloos made from water bottles, tornadoes of beans and other vegetable cans and often a mix, especially of labels because of their color.

Johnny Kung, an architecture and design manager from Knoll, serves as the co-chair for this year’s CANstruction event. It’s also his fourth year to help out. “While it is all for fun, there is an intensity that comes from the firms when they are designing and building their structures here. Plans are created and drawn up, just like any other structure. However, there isn’t the worry about codes and other requirements. The only big things are the use of imagination, some safety and the plan to make sure the structure stands for about a month.”

CANstruction is an international program of the Society of Design Administration that calls on teams to design and build creative, colossal sculptures made only from canned food and other non-perishable food items. “From an architectural point, these structures are more art than anything. However, it’s great for team building. There are leadership opportunities among the teams and even among the CANstruction committee. Primarily, it’s a way to give back to the community. I look at this as my annual service project,” Kung says.

“CANstruction is especially important this year, when many more people in our community are at risk of hunger,” says Karen Haren, president and CEO of Harvesters. “The cans of food used to create these fantastic structures will help Harvesters provide thousands of meals to hungry families at a time when the need for emergency food assistance is greater than ever.” Harvesters is this area’s only food bank. Serving a 26-county area of northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas, Harvesters provides food and related household products to more than 550 not-for-profit agencies including emergency food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, children’s homes, homes for the mentally disabled and shelters for battered persons.

When the exhibit closes, the cans are donated to Harvesters, the local food bank. During its nine-year history, CANstruction has provided more than 206,000 pounds of food —more than 158,000 meals — to feed the hungry. Last year, the 15 participating teams used more than 33,000 pounds of food, supplying Harvesters with nearly 27,000 meals.

The exhibit opens to the public on Friday, Jan. 15 and runs through Feb. 10. Sponsors of this year’s event are Price Chopper, Focus Architecture, BRR Architecture and Henderson Engineers, Inc. Kung says Price Chopper this year donated all the canned items. Last year, more than 40,000 cans were used. He projects 50,000 this year.

Sculptures will be judged in the categories of Best Meal, Structural Ingenuity, Best Use of Labels, Jurors Favorite and Honorable Mention by a panel of judges, and those winners will be announced at the opening reception. Judges this year include Stretch, local artist and Grinders owner; Josh Eans, Blanc Burgers & Bottles; Alan Johnson, Alan Johnson Designs; Darcy Rapp, Wallace Engineering; and Diane Smith, Harvesters’ board of directors. Kung says Best Meal is a challenging category because often the canned foods are chosen for the colors of the labels and not necessarily for the product inside the can. However, if a team succeeds here, the idea is that a full meal could be made from the choices in the cans.

The People’s Choice Award winner, announced at the conclusion of the exhibit, is determined by donations at the exhibit. Visitors to the exhibit can vote for their favorite super-sized masterpiece with financial donations to Harvesters. Because Harvesters can provide five meals with every $1 donated, every vote matters. Last year’s winner of the People’s Choice Award was The Ripple, created by HOK Sports+Venue+Event.  Kung says this is a favorite because it is a vote of tremendous support from the people.

BRR Architecture, Merriam, one of the event sponsors, also had a team producing an eight-feet-tall round structure made mostly of salmon and tuna cans. The round structure features four Marilyn Monroe faces, taken in the style of pop artist Andy Warhol. About 8,500 cans are in the structure. Sarah Vandiver and Brandy Anderson, two employees, used some of their community service hours that the company offers them. They worked on two of the four faces. “It’s something we all enjoy doing,” Vandiver says.

A team from Clark Enersen, Briarcliff in the Northland, created a 7-foot-tall Shuttlecock. This year is the first for the architectural firm. Architect Andrea Anderson says the team wanted to create a Kansas City icon and many thought of the Shuttlecocks at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The museum staff and community just marked the 15th anniversary of the four placed sculptures on the lawn of the Nelson. “They are just unusual enough and recognizable.”

The six winning entries also will represent Kansas City in the national CANstruction competition. The winners of the national competition will be selected and honored at the Society of Design Administration’s national meeting in May.

Participating teams in Kansas City for the 2010 event were ACI/Boland; Black & Veatch; BRR Architecture; Christ Preparatory Academy; Clark Enersen Partners; Focus Architecture; Gastinger Walker Harden Architects; George Butler Associates; Hoefer Wysocki Architects; Patti Banks Associates/Moody Noland; Populous; Tevis Architects/Prosser Wilbert Construction; Treanor Architects; University of Kansas Interior Design; Urban Prairie Architectural Collaborative; and WJE Healthcare Architects.


Kellie Houx

Kellie Houx is a writer and photographer. A graduate of Park University, she has 20 years of experience as a journalist. As a writer, wife and mom, she values education, arts, family and togetherness.

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