If you build it, they will come. That’s the basic premise behind Hawaii Foodbank’s crowd-pleasing Canstruction competition, which returns Saturday (Oct. 1) to Pearlridge Center. Now in its 11th year, the concept remains the same, but teams always find a way to take the popular “food raiser” to new heights.
The designs are top secret, so no spoilers here other than to reveal this year’s theme, Galacti-CAN-Goods, reflecting the human desire for exploration and discovery, science, technology and creativity … with cans.
Nine teams of local architects, builders, and allied design and engineering professionals are now hard at work putting finishing touches on their colossal creations. It’s no small task. Each engineering marvel takes months of planning, sketching, 3-D modeling, sculpting and, of course, trial and error. Not to mention the actual “canstruction,” a five-hour scramble to get thousands of cans perfectly placed in an 8-by-8-foot space with artistry and architectural ingenuity.
“Seeing the build is frenetic, and it’s exciting to see the exhibits take shape and then be displayed in Center Court Uptown,” says Pearl-ridge manager Fred Paine. “I am always amazed at the cleverness of their exhibits. They really put a lot of time, effort and money into making some very cool and unusual objects.”
“One of the primary goals for creating a great design is finding something that is recognizable and could be appreciated by everyone,” says Canstruction veteran Noe Pegarido, associate vice president/senior project designer for 2015 winner WATG (Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo). “We also try to incorporate something about Hawaii in our designs when possible.”
That formula has been a recipe for success. The firm’s first entry in 2006, an Outrigger Canoe, won the structural integrity award right out of the gate.
Multiple awards take up an entire counter in the WATG office. There was a Big Aloha Shirt and Pele/ Volcano, which both won best use of labels, and a Juror’s favorite prize for a 2012 submission called “CANmehameha.” “It’s a lot of pressure to come up with something better each year,” admits Pegarido, before adding, “but that’s part of the fun and we enjoy the challenge.”
WATG builders had to improvise with their “Slash Hunger” structure of the Guns ‘N Roses guitarist last year because they “couldn’t get the model quite right” for their original design.
“We had already placed the orders for the cans, which were primarily black, so we had to quickly come up with an alternate design that would work with what we had.” Their “Plan B” won the 2015 Juror’s Favorite Award.
With one in five people in the state depending on a network of food providers, it’s a huge win for Hawaii Foodbank. What started with 40,000 pounds of food donated in 2006 now is pushing 330,000 pounds. That’s equivalent to 260,000 meals for Hawaii’s hungry. In Pegarido’s opinion, “The satisfaction of knowing how many families benefit and rely on the food bank makes it worthwhile.”
“From the very first event I have been amazed at the generosity of the participating firms, and flabbergasted by the designs and capability,” says Hawaii Foodbank vice president and COO Polly Kauahi. “Hawaii Foodbank had tried to bring together a similar event in the ’90s, but it turned out much differently.”
When Paine took the job at Pearlridge in 2005, he wondered why there was no Canstruction in Hawaii. He had experience hosting successful events in his previous position in Washington, D.C., and decided it was time to bring the event to the Islands. But there was a key missing ingredient: Manpower, or “can power,” to make the monstrous displays a reality.
Longtime Pearlridge publicist Deborah Sharkey recalls a lunch at Palomino’s that she set up between Paine and American Institute of Architects Honolulu chapter.
“I distinctly remember AIA executive Amy Blagriff saying that she was very familiar with Canstruction, but as a nonprofit with only two full-time employees, she didn’t have anyone who could move the idea forward.”
AIA didn’t, but Pearlridge did. As Sharkey tells it, “Fred told Amy that he would loan her the Pearlridge Center staff to coordinate the first year of Canstruction, in the hope that she would find her own AIA Honolulu volunteers who could take it on after that.”
“The rest is a very fruitful history,” adds Kauahi, referring to the quantity and quality of donations. “The canned goods are directly from wholesalers or distributors, all within ‘best sell by’ dates and never rusty, which is Foodbank gold.”
Donate a can to vote for your favorite Canstruction structure Oct. 1-15.
“Vote often,” suggests Paine. “Enjoy what our local architects and contractors are capable of creating that will end up helping so many.”
Keiki can build structures with AIA help at Pearlridge Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. Bring at least five cans of food as a donation to join in the fun in the Kids Can Corner.