CANstruction 2017: Fighting Hunger, Chicago Style

CANstruction is an international charity competition and exhibition which unites architects, contractors and engineers to design themed and mind-bending sculptures built entirely of canned foods. At the end of the exhibition, the canned food is donated to The Greater Chicago Food Depository. This year, over 100,000 lbs of non-perishable items benefitted soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters and programs throughout Cook County. 

Late in the summer, Chicago CANstruction teams gather at the Merchandise Mart for the famed ‘build-night,’ where each team skillfully crafts their sculpture submission. Build night has quickly become one of our teams’ most anticipated nights of the year. Tremendous appreciation to CANstruction for continuing to keep up with the growing popularity and demand of the event. The feeling of buildnight is like no other: complete with photographer, go-pro, music, catering, and group t-shirts. It’s exhausting, exhilarating, exciting, and satisfying. Months of training and hard work pays off.

After build-night, the exhibition opens to the general public where awards are given for areas such as ‘best use of labels,’ ‘structural ingenuity,’ and ‘peoples’ choice.’ The entire process from kickoff to decanstruction lasts about 5 months. In early September, teams came together one last time to deconstruct and distribute their cans to their final destination – the Greater Chicago Food Depository. 

OKW Architects has participated in seven previous CANstruction Chicago events. Our two most recent entries were submitted by the ‘Dream Team:’ W.E. O’Neil, RTM Associates and OKW Architects. Since coming together as mere acquaintances just over a year ago, we’ve be able to ramp up our strengths and smoothly navigate the CANstruction competition. Our team chemistry made for an easy early vote for our sculpture submission. Our decision making included practicality, trend, personality and popularity. Ultimately, we voted and decided on Portillo’s – a Chicago classic! We knew this would require a great deal of sacrifice in sampling of hot-dogs and fries – all for the sake of accurate research.

The bar was raised in this years’ competition, with the largest amount of participating teams in Chicago history. While we didn’t come home with an award, we did, as we do each year, become enriched with team spirit and renewed awareness of those in need around Chicago. We raised $8,330 and provided 24,990 meals for people in our community.

In addition to heightening our awareness of those in need, CANstruction is a chance to work with people outside of your regular circle. It provides an opportunity to build leadership skills and take ownership. It requires communication, team work, collaboration, organization, extra hours, and lots of excel spreadsheets! CANstruction requires hard work and dedication and, like many teams, each year we find ourselves questioning our ability to pull it off! But we always do – and we’re better for it.

Our greatest success was our fundraising efforts. Plain and simple, we could not participate without the support of our sponsors. It’s easy to take credit, but THEY are the ones who are providing for needy families. Special thank you to our primary sponsors: Titan Electric, 555 International, Structured Development, O’Neil Foundation, Leadership Capital Advisors, and BCBM, LLC.

What should we build in 2018? Tell us what you think!