Every year at about this time, Los Angeles’ design community comes together for a good cause—and a chance to show off their ingenuity working with an unusual building material. We’re talking Canstruction LA, which just wrapped its eighth outing. Like other Canstruction events nationwide, Canstruction LA invites teams of architects, engineers, builders, and designers to design and build sculptures entirely out of canned food. The 2014 competition produced an array of impressive designs and—most importantly—donated 28,551 cans of food to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.
Canstruction LA is put on by an all-volunteer steering committee under the auspices of the Society for Design Administration. Julie D. Taylor, Hon. AIA/LA, who serves on the committee, first read about the Canstruction program in a magazine. “[I] thought, this would be great for my clients to do,” said Taylor, who is the principal of Taylor & Company, a public relations firm for creative professionals. “I called up the national organization and said, ‘Who’s doing it in LA?’ They said, ‘No one. Why don’t you do it?’”
So Taylor did, and the event keeps getting better. This year’s participants donated 7,000 more pounds of food than last year’s. Because the design teams are responsible for obtaining the cans, “it’s a major commitment for the firms that contribute,” said Taylor. Participants must also agree to a set of ground rules: they’re limited in size to a 10- by 10- by 8-foot cube; they have to use nutritious food, and the labels have to stay on. The designers can use a few additional materials to hold their creations together, but the sculptures should be mostly cans.
The participating teams submitted drawings to the event organizers ahead of time. “Every year I look at them and I go, ‘There’s no way they’re going to be able to do that,” said Taylor. “And every year they knock me out.” Once on site, the designers have just one all-nighter to put their sculptures together. A jury of art, architecture, and culinary experts reviews the creations and awards several prizes, including the Juror’s Favorite, Best Use of Labels, Best Meal, and Structural Ingenuity. Visitors to the exhibition of finished works can vote for a People’s Choice honoree for one dollar, with all proceeds going to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.
This year’s Juror’s Favorite was FOOD FIGHT! by PCL Construction Services, KPFF Consulting Engineers, and Callison, a face-off between a container of french fries and an apple that reflects on Angelenos’ struggle to access nutritious foods. Best Use of Labels went to Reflecting Hunger, by Steinberg Architects, which is based on Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago. CANimal Style Trio, by American Society of Civil Engineers Younger Member Forum, which imagines a health-conscious update to the classic fast-food meal, took Best Meal. The spiraling Pineapple Twist, by NBBJ and Thornton Tomasetti won both Structural Ingenuity and People’s Choice. Honorable Mention went to CAN Get some Satisfaction, a Rolling Stones-inspired challenge to hunger by LARGE Architecture and HKS Inc.
Canstruction LA 2014 took place for the second time at the Farmers and Merchants Bank in downtown Los Angeles as part of the Downtown Art Walk. “Being open during the Downtown Art Walk is incredible,” said Taylor. “The number of people who go through, and the diversity of people, is fabulous, and so that’s been a really big boon. We hope to be downtown for many, many years and engage the downtown community.”