It’s Canstruction week in Phoenix, so be sure to make a trip down to the Phoenix Convention Center by April 7th to view the elaborate sculptures put together by Arizona design and construction teams. I had the honor of judging the competition again this year, along with four other construction industry and media representatives, and we were all thoroughly impressed with the spirit and talent of all the canstruction teams.
This year saw 12 teams working on creative and ingenious designs. Built last weekend, these sculptures are can-cocted (warning: there will be a lot of ‘can’ puns in this post!) entirely from cans of food, packs of dried spaghetti or containers of potato chips – any shelf-stable food item is fair game.

The teams are driven by the competitive spirit, but also by tremendous heart. That’s because, after a brief week-long lifespan, these can creations will be ‘decanstructed’ and every single can and food item will be donated to St. Mary’s Food Bank for distribution to the poor and hungry.

Those cans are sorely needed, too. The hunger pangs of Arizona’s poor are even more acute this year than in the past. St. Mary’s, billed as the oldest food bank, distributes food to 700 sites and serves 275,000 meals every day. St. Mary’s Chet Provorse says that one in seven elderly Arizonans go hungry each day, and as many as one in five adults.

The good news? Canstruction, hosted by the Society for Marketing Professional Services Arizona Chapter, will donate a total of 53,029 cans of food, equating to 52,521 lbs of food that will be immediately distributed to Arizonans after the structures are demolished this weekend.

But which teams won, you ask? The judges were tasked with evaluating the structures based on the quality of the meal that one could make from the ingredients found in the cans; the creative use of labels; the structural integrity and ingenuity; and the best overall.
The overall winner, the Juror’s Favorite, is: Easter Basket, by the team of Gilbane Building Co., Arrington Watkins Architects, LSW Engineers, Dibble Engineering and Paragon Structural Design. This sculpture excelled in every category. It had the best variety of nutritious food items (and it also won in the ‘best meal’ category) and an ingenious structure featuring a basket handle made of Pringles containers. The bunny was a free-form sculpture that appeared to have very little support. And the use of color from the labels was clever, from the green cans for the fake grass in the Easter basket to the yellow of the Peep.

Best Use of Labels went to the Organic sculpture, led by Devenney Group. We probably discussed this category the most – there were several sculptures this year that used labels smartly. But Devenney Group designed theirs to depict four completely different scenes depending on which angle you looked at it from, including a dragon, a phoenix and two panels honoring Arizona’s Centennial. Made from varieties of the same brand of organic soup cans, the team wasn’t going to win any awards for Best Meal, but the uniform cans allowed them to create an unusual and subtle color scheme that actually pops much better when viewed through a camera lens. 

Structural Ingenuity went to Give Hunger the Boot, a perfectly shaped creation that was instantly recognizable as a cowboy boot. DWL Architects + Planners and Mortenson Construction did a great job creating the tall cylinder shape of the boot and precise can placement. There was no hint of structural weakness, which couldn’t be said for all the structures this year.

Honorable Mention went to The Lorax, led by SmithGroupJJR. This whimsical sculpture based on the recent movie boasted a colorful scene and challenging structure. The judges didn’t find out until later that the Lorax was also the ‘Greatest Can-glomeration,’ which is Canstruction-speak for the most cans used in a sculpture—7,539 cans, which totals up to 7,596 lbs of food! 

Do you have a favorite? Be sure to make it down to the Phoenix Convention Center’s West Building and cast a vote for the AIA Phoenix Metro People’s Choice award, through April 7th.

There’s plenty of room to add additional sculptures, so if you are interested in participating in next year’s canstruction, be sure to contact the hard-working team behind the competition at

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