Architects finally get busy — with cans |

Architects finally get busy — with cans

Anne Knowles

Who knew the Great Wall of China ran through Reno’s Meadowood Mall?

It will, sort of, this week when architects from Reno’s Collaborative Design Studio assemble 1,700 cans of green beans and other canned edibles to build a food facsimile of the wall for the 11th Canstruction.

Collaborative Design will be one of nine teams participating in the annual event coordinated by local architects to benefit the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.

Nine teams are the fewest entries the event has fielded. Initially, Reno Canstruction, which is part of a national event, attracted as many as 20 teams representing area architectural firms, schools and businesses and non-profits. But the recent recession hit the local architectural industry hard, with some firms closing up shop and others cutting staff by as much as half. So the last few years the event has been whittled down to a handful of teams, 10 or 12 on average.

Still, the Food Bank expects to collect about 17,000 cans of food this year, about the same amount donated at last year’s Canstruction, says Jocelyn Lantrip, director of marketing and communications at the Reno-based non-profit.

“We think of it as foodraiser and friendraiser rather than a fundraiser,” says Lantrip.

The nine teams, which include one from Truckee Meadow Community College, will gather Wednesday morning to spend the day building their designs entirely out of cans of food and some allowed material to hold it all together.

“They can use clear tape, rubber bands, Velcro, anything that won’t damage the label,” says Fred Graham, senior project architect with Worth Group in Reno and chair of the event organized by the American Institute of Architects of Northern Nevada.

That’s partly because the labels are part of the design — there’s even an award for Best Use of Labels — but mostly because they need to be intact for the cans to be donated.

“The hard thing is it depends on the labels,” says Wan Cone, an architect with MBA Architecture & Interior Design, a Reno firm participating in Canstruction for the first time, in conjunction with its sponsor, the Rotary Club of Reno Midtown.

MBA is building a piggy bank out of about 550 cans, and pink food labels weren’t easy to find, says Cone.

“We’re using cans that are more peachy-colored, and that will hopefully come out pinkish,” says Cone. “We’re playing off the idea of pork and beans.”

Generally, to create their designs the firms hash out ideas amongst themselves, determine a viable one and build it solely as a computer model. The day of the event is the first and only time they construct their design.

“We’re trying out a few of the elements to make sure things go smoothly,” says Audrey Snyder, project architect with Collaborative Design, the Great Wall of China contestants.

This is the firm’s second year participating and Snyder says they learned some important lessons last year, most importantly that a thin fiber board between every few layers of cans is a must-have.

“We’ve had a couple times when gravity took its toll,” says Worth Group’s Graham. “We once had a clever team that did a string of DNA and it collapsed during the night. So they brought in a kiddie pool, threw the cans in and called it the gene pool.”

The nine teams will be building their tin sculptures in different locations in the mall all day Wednesday, starting at 8 a.m. Formal judging takes place Thursday with several categories awarded, including Best Meal.

A People’s Choice award can be voted on by the public on Thursday through Sunday at the mall with a $1 donation to the Food Bank.