The Newark and Suburban section of the New Jersey Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA-NJ), recently held its 14th annual “Canstruction” event, a design exhibition and contest that benefits community food programs, at the Livingston Mall in Livingston, N.J. The event donated over 26,000 cans of food and nearly $4,000 to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey (CFBNJ), located in Hillside, N.J.

The Back to School-themed “Canstruction” event challenged five teams of architects, engineers, contractors and designers to build colossal – up to 10-by-10-by-8-foot-high –structures made from canned food and held together by tape and clear plexiglass. The structures were built during an eight-hour “Build Day” and left on display for a week at various points in the mall. The structures were then dismantled and the canned goods were donated to CFBNJ.

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“’Canstruction’ is a terrific way for the architecture and construction industry to show off their talents and give back to the community,” said Christy DiBartolo, project architect at Gensler Morristown, a global architectural, design, planning and consulting firm, and director of this year’s competition. “The time and effort these firms put into ‘Canstruction’ is apparent in the quality of structures, and we commend all of this year’s firms for participating.”

The structures required a significant amount of time and planning, she added. Teams prepared computer-aided design (CAD) sketches and, in some cases, constructed structures in advance to test various designs. Each team was also responsible for procuring the cans needed to build its structure, which involved activities such as securing sponsors, holding food drives, fundraising and, purchasing cans.

The structures were judged and awarded in various categories, including “Juror’s Choice,” “Best in Show,”  “Best Use of Labels,” Structural Integrity,” “People’s Choice,” and “Best Meal.”

The event’s top award, “Juror’s Choice / Best in Show” went to USA Architects, a full-service architectural firm based in Somerville, N.J, for its “Feed Your Mind” structure, a giant apple.

Other award winners included NK Architects, a Morristown, N.J.-based architectural and design firm, which received “Best Use of Labels” for its Schoolhouse Rock structure showcasing the character Bill, entitled “Just a Bill …To Fight Hunger.” The “Structural

Integrity” and “People’s Choice” awards were given to Solutions Architecture, a Newark, N.J.-based architectural firm, for its enormous red schoolhouse structure, entitled “School the Mind – Feed the Body.”  “Best Meal” was awarded to Gensler Morristown, for its over-sized lunchbox, titled “Outside the Box.” “Honorable Mention” was awarded to Milrose Construction, a municipal permit expediting and building code consulting firm based in Jersey City, N.J., for its giant bookworm, titled “Food for Thought.”

The Community Food Bank distributes 39 million pounds of food and groceries each year, ultimately serving 1,500 non-profit programs including 436 programs served by its Partner Distribution Organizations. Through their combined efforts, they help to feed 900,000 low-income people in 18 of New Jersey’s 21 counties.

Since the founding of “Canstruction,” over 17.5 million pounds of food have been donated to community food banks to aid in the fight against hunger. Initiated by the Denver, Seattle and New York chapters of the Society for Design Administration (SDA) in 1992-1993, more than 130 individual “Canstruction” competitions take place during the 2011/2012 cycle. In that cycle alone, the events gathered 3,419,885 pounds of food, enough for 1,500,000 meals.

About AIA and AIA New JerseyThe American Institute of Architects (AIA) is the professional organization that helps architects serve the public’s needs and builds awareness of the role of architects and architecture in American society. The organization, which was founded in 1857, recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., its 300 plus local chapters represent 86,000 licensed architects and associated professionals. AIA New Jersey, based in Trenton, is the local chapter of AIA. In 2000, it celebrated its 100th anniversary. AIA New Jersey has about 2,000 members in six regional sections. For more information, please visit

About Canstruction, Inc.

Canstruction, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that coordinates annual design and build competitions in a way that combines the creative thinking of the design and construction industry with a community service initiative. This international community service project bases its service on the construction of structures made entirely out of canned food, raising awareness about hunger to show how “one CAN make a difference.” Canstruction is trademarked by the Society for Design Administration (SDA)