Area architects are building malls, office buildings and apartment complexes that continue to raise the Northern Virginia skyline. But some of their most important projects over the past 15 years have been 10x10x10-foot sculptures made of cans, whether it be a larger-than-life snail or a Star Wars storm trooper. These are past results from the Canstruction competition, and the food cans used in the construction are ultimately donated to the Arlington Food Assistance Center to help Arlington families in need.
This year, eight architecture firms will compete in Canstruction, which will take place Oct. 26-Nov. 3 at Dulles International Airport.
Canstruction is an international competition, with the local event organized by the American Institute of Architects’ Northern Virginia Chapter, in partnership with AFAC. The participating firms signed up over the summer and began designing their concept and searching grocery stores for the proper cans to build their structures, which must fit within a 10x10x10-foot space, though do not need to fill the entire space. The firms order the cans through AFAC, often raising funds or paying for the orders themselves. The cans are delivered to the site and starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, the teams will have until midnight to complete their constructions.
“These are pretty elaborate and sophisticated structures,” says Debbie Burns, executive director of AIA Northern Virginia. In addition to the snail and storm trooper already mentioned, past examples have included an ice cream cone, a squid and a mother duck and her ducklings.
After the structures are completed, they will be on display through Nov. 3 and judged by a panel of three jurors for the official Canstruction competition in the categories of Best Original Design, Structural Ingenuity, Best Use of Labels, Best Meal and Most Cans. A People’s Choice award will also be open to the public, which people can vote for on social media. Awards will be announced on Nov. 1. The winning sculptures will have their photographs submitted to the international competition.
This is the first year that Canstruction will take place at Dulles airport, with the building and displays being held on the east and west side of the transportation level of the main terminal. The past five years were held at Reagan National Airport, but construction required the event be moved. With a call of support from National, Dulles agreed to be the new home.
“It’s an art display, it’s fun, it’s a charity event, it showcases architects and what they can do; everybody just seems to love it,” Burns says.
Last year, Canstruction donated more than 23,000 cans and raised more than $42,000 for AFAC, according to Burns. This year, Burns says that one team is planning on using more than 7,000 cans in its structure.
In addition to viewing the finished structures, the public can volunteer to be part of the deconstruction teams and sending off the cans to AFAC.
The firms competing in this years Canstruction are: HDR, HGA Architects and Engineers, KGD Architecture, Maginniss + del Ninno Architecture, MG2, MTFA Architecture, PGAL, Samaha Associates PC. More information is available on Canstruction at aianova.org.