New York hosts exhibition of canned food sculptures

There's the giant lobster, made out of cans of anchovies. The alien and its spaceship are built out of cans of peas. And the milk carton and cookies? What else but cans of condensed milk and tins of cookies?

The canned creations are the part of the 13th annual Canstruction event that opened Thursday at the New York Design Center - a showcase meant to raise awareness of hunger issues. The event is a project of the Society for Design Administration in association with the American Institute of Architects.

The price of admission: one can of food. The 130,000 cans that are part of the exhibit will be given to the Food Bank of New York City.

Thirty-five groups of architects and engineers from around the city teamed up to build the structures, which can be up to 10 feet (3 meters) long by 10 feet (3 meters) wide and no more than 8 feet (2.4 meters) high.

The teams are allowed to use any food cans they like, along with items like clear tape and rubber bands, but no load-bearing items like thick wood planks. In this year's show, the sculptures use anywhere from several hundred cans to several thousand.

Getting the cans with the right label color can be a challenge. One team set out to make an Empire State Building with King Kong, and wanted to use cans with black labels for the giant gorilla. Finding the cans turned out to be difficult, with slim pickings of cans with black labels at the local markets, said Joe Rosales, captain of the team from Weidlinger Associates.

They thought they hit the jackpot when a friend of a team member looked in his cupboard and found a black label on a can of olives. But no, not quite. "The can was actually hard to get because it's not sold on the East Coast," Rosales said. (They called the distributor, who made a special delivery to the area.)

Another team, building an apple and a saxophone to commemorate both New York and New Orleans, thought everything was all set until members arrived to get ready Wednesday evening - and discovered cases of cans with blue labels, not the red ones they needed to make the apple.

The mistake set off a hurried rush to grocery stores around the city, said Julie Hiromoto, captain of the team from the architecture and design firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.

The companies compete to win in a number of categories: juror's favorite, structural ingenuity, best use of labels and best meal (rewarding the choice of food in the cans).

The winning sculptures will compete against the winners from Canstruction events in over 50 cities in North America at the national championships in Los Angeles on June 1. A.M.

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