Chicago Architects Build To Fight Hunger

"Yellow Submarine" by Horn Design/DSI – Development Solutions

“Yellow Submarine” by Horn Design/DSI – Development Solutions

Typically, creativity in architecture and design comes to life using construction materials like metal, wood and concrete. Over in the lobby of the Merchandise Mart, 20 teams of creative folks used a less traditional medium: canned goods.

"Superdawgs" by Hirsch Associates/C.E. Anderson/Erikkson/Linn-Mathes

“Superdawgs” by Hirsch Associates/C.E. Anderson/Erikkson/Linn-Mathes

Now in its seventh year, CANstruction Chicago is remarkable for the sheer imagination used in the design and construction. Look at the sculptures for a few minutes and you completely forget it’s just a weird stack of cans of kitchen staples.

Thousands of cans, in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, are stacked to create familiar shapes. For example, there’s “Superdawgs,” the familiar smiling hot dogs, crafted by the Hirsh/C.E. Anderson/Eriksson/Linn-Mathes team from 2,797 cans of peas, butter beans and tuna.

Another fanciful sculpture is “Yellow Submarine,” by the RTKL and GRAEF team. It’s made out of 4,719 cans of cream style corn, pasta sauce and mushrooms.

The team from Gensler, Skender and Thornton Tomasetti used 4,817 cans of beef ravioli and new potatoes to create a giant postcard, “Greetings from CANcun!”

CANstruction Chicago is presented by Whole Foods and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. More than 95,000 pounds of food were used to create the sculptures. They were on display at the Merchandise Mart until last week, and now all the cans will go to provide food for hungry of Cook County.

On Thursday, September 5, the winning teams were announced, of course, at a ceremony known as the aCANemy Awards Gala. Here are this year’s winners:

  • The People’s Choice Award – Wight & Company’s “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”
  • Most Cans Used (11,040) – RJN Group/Epstein’s “Hunger – the Real Monster Lurking Behind the Closet Door”
  • Most Creative Name – exp US Services’ “Hunger in Perspective”
  • In Demand Award – RTKL/GRAEF’s “We Help Feed in a Yellow Submarine”
  • Make No Small Cans Award – Booth Hansen/Forefront Structural Engineers’ “CAN in the Hat”
  • Whole Foods Chicago Award – Horn Design/DSI – Development Solutions, Inc.’s “Third Wonder of Chicago”

  • Honorable Mention – JAHN/Halvorson’s “CAN you see it?”
  • Honorable Mention – OKW Architects’ “Don’t Leave Hunger in the Shadows”
  • Best Meal – Hirsch Associates/C.E. Anderson/Erikkson/Linn-Mathes’ “Superdawgs”
  • Best Use of Labels – Gensler, Skender, and Thornton Tomasetti’s “Greetings from CANcun”
  • Structural Ingenuity – Muller + Muller/Primera’s “The Grand CANyon”
  • Juror’s Favorite – RJN Group/Epstein’s “Hunger: The Real Monster Lurking Behind the Closet Door”

You can see more CANstruction pictures and a list of all the teams that entered at the Greater Chicago Food Depository web site.

"Cancun" by RJN Group/Epstein

“Cancun” by RJN Group/Epstein


Author: Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan is a writer and photographer, and a former resident of the West Loop. He can be reached at

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