As most of the U.S. has been consumed with March Madness; vigorously filling out brackets by tracking player statistics, loyally standing by your alma mater, or choosing teams based on most stylish uniforms, we at K4 have been involved in some madness of our own. Since November we’ve been scouring the grocery store aisles for the perfect canned food labels and weighing, measuring, and comparing various cans to see how they stack up against each other (literally) in preparation of the 2014 Canstruction Cincinnati competition.
Canstruction is an international community service project of the design and construction industry to benefit community food banks. Architects, engineers, designers and contractors compete to design and build fantastic giant-sized structures made entirely out of canned foods. After the structures are built and the winners declared, the creations go on view to the general public as a giant art exhibit. At the close of the competition, all of the food used in the structures is donated to the local food bank for distribution to community emergency feeding programs.
Now that the 48,586 pounds of canned food collected this year are safely stacked at the Freestore Foodbank, I thought I would give you a behind the scenes look at what led to the design, build out, and award win of our Canstructure – “Fighting Hunger One Fork At A Time.”
The brainstorming part of the process started with research of past Canstruction entries. We found plenty of beloved cartoon characters, masterpieces of art and architecture, and even a slinky – one of my personal favorites. So we teamed up with our friends at HGC Construction and came up with some team goals to successfully move from the sketch phase to the final product; while keeping our eye on the Canstruction four award categories of Structural Integrity, Best Use of Labels, Best Meal, and Jurors’ Favorite.
The well known architectural theory of Vitruvius relies on the relationship of firmitas, utilitas, and venustas – for you Latin fanatics and for everyone else – structural stability, commodity, and beauty. We wanted to maintain these three principles, similar to the four Canstruction award categories, throughout our design.
Our second goal was to recognize the big picture – the Canstruction Cincinnati inspirational motto, “One Man Can’ be a catalyst for change.” We wanted to use our design to remind people about the purpose of Canstruction. By modifying the iconic machine, the forklift used frequently on our job sites, to include an actual utensil that is used every day during mealtime, we hoped to spark peoples’ curiosity and challenge them to think differently. Just as viewers may not expect a heavy duty forklift to be pulling vegetables out of the ground, they may not realize how easy it is to make a difference in the fight against hunger. It doesn’t take heavy duty machinery or a great effort to help feed the people right in our own communities and neighborhoods. One person can make a difference in someone’s life and we can “Fight Hunger One Fork at a Time.”
So we decided on a design direction, took the plunge, and drew up some plans. Collaboration and coordination were key. On build day, your team of 5 is only allowed 5 hours to complete the structure. We made sure to have a “floor plan” of the ground so we knew how high to build the ground by how many tuna can spacers to add to each Bush’s baked beans can. For the cab, we used a color-coded plan of each layer so you knew the exact number, color, and location of cans needed for each layer. This sped up the process and kept everyone busy. We squeaked by with only 12 minutes to spare.
The Canstructure elements below provided unforeseen challenges for us as well as learning experiences.
The Forklift Cab – This was fairly simple and carefully planned out, a great teaser of what was to come. Now we had to work on cantilevering the fork “through” an 8 foot tall carrot and fight gravity to make the tire round.
Carrot – Whenever you have a small base (6 cans) supporting a larger top (largest diameter 21 cans), structural integrity becomes an issue. Careful placement and a steady hand were essential in building the carrot.
Fork – In order for the fork to look like it was actually pulling the carrot out of the ground, we needed to get the angle of the fork just right. We used sardine cans for their silver color, the tin can which was easy to Velcro without destroying the label and their light weight. Again we wanted to make this look like an actual utensil, so we added some texture to the handle by adding small round cans to make it as close to fine china as you can get with canned goods. This design also makes a pretty cool t-shirt…
Tire – One of the most important rules for Canstruction is to keep the label on the can intact. So that basically threw out Velcro and tape of any kind. So we turned to the Internet and Robby Blum tracked down some heavy duty magnets. We designed a 3 layer frame out of Masonite to hold the cans in the middle of the tire and used magnets around the outside for the Ranch style beans. We had several unsuccessful attempts with the number and location of magnets, as well as a few minor injuries (glue gun burns), that led to finally successfully maintaining the radius of the tire with the cans.
Whether it’s the relationship of the ceiling curves to the angled tile floor patterns, or the texture of the chair fabric complimenting the brand, attention to details are what make a good design great. We took this same approach when designing this structure. We made sure all the labels were turned out. We introduced a Kool-Aid packet carrot top, brown sugar dirt tracks, Jiffy Pop steering wheel with a black licorice wheel cover, Crystal Light box pedals, a lasagna dashboard, and Hormel Chili headlights.
The combined effort of K4 & HGC and commitment to our planning process, attention to detail, and variety of food options chosen, helped us to distinguish our Canstructure from other competing entries and led to the win of the ‘Best Meal’ category.
It was a fun experience that put our creativity and problem solving skills to a new test, always a welcome challenge for design professionals.
Can’t wait til next year….
Still want more Canstruction action? Watch this video to see the build out in progress.