Yes, We ‘Can’

Local architects and designers raise hunger awareness by turning canned goods into awesome works of art.

Who says you need bricks, wood and drywall to build something amazing? For the past four years, construction professionals over at the American Institute of Architects have been wowing the area with structures built entirely out of one unique material: canned goods.

Each year, the AIA teams up with Philabundance, the Philadelphia region’s largest hunger relief organization, for the country’s most creative food drive. Dubbed “Canstruction,” the competition pits teams of designers and architects against each other to create visually innovative arrangements of canned food, which is generally provided by local businesses and other donors. Among this year’s competitors are King of Prussia’s Array Healthcare Facilities Solutions and Wayne’s HGA Architects and Engineers. All the cans are later donated to Philabundance, who distributes them to food pantries. Last year’s event resulted in the donation of 40,000 pounds of food.

Last year's “Stamp Out Hunger ForeverThe actual contest takes place during 12 hours of building on April 23, followed by judging and an awards ceremony the next morning. The structures wind up becoming awe-inspiring works of art that typically tie back to the event’s mission: eliminating hunger in Philadelphia. Last year, one team built a 3D version of the famous Liberty Bell postage stamp and titled it, “Stamp Out Hunger Forever.”

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“We want to put a spotlight on hunger and raise awareness about hungry Philadelphians,” says AIA representative and event co-chair Angel Davis. “The AIA is whole-heartedly about giving back to the community, and this is a creative way for us to do that.”

It may be a bit of a drive down to Liberty Place, but the Canstruction exhibit running April 24-May 2 is definitely worth it. Not only is it a great opportunity to check out nontraditional “pop art,” but it’s also a perfectly digestible way to understand and contribute to the relief of the city’s deep-rooted poverty issues. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2006 American Community Survey, 25.1 percent of Philadelphia residents were below the poverty line, and that number has only increased since the beginning of the recession.

Free. Open to the public. Monday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, noon-6 p.m. 1601 Chestnut St., Philadelphia. To learn more, visit or

Our Best of the Main Line Elimination Ballot is open through February 22!