MDN Architects "JAWS, Take a Bite Out of Hunger. Photo by Scott Ball.
MDN Architects created JAWS out of cans at the San Antonio annual Canstruction® competition in 2015. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Stacks of tomato sauce and a few thousand sliced jalapeños might not sound like a winning combination, but this month they are helping raise local food awareness and donations at North Star Mall.

The 10th Annual Canstruction San Antonio competition showcases imaginative can-based structures created by local architects, engineers and construction firms. For the next two weeks, the colorful and towering structures will remind mall visitors of the 58,000 families fed by the San Antonio Food Bank each week. There are still millions of Americans and thousands of San Antonians who go to bed hungry each night, and those numbers increase during the summer.

September is National Hunger Awareness Month and a lean time for the San Antonio Food Bank.

“September is kind of a transition month for us. We are finishing up the summer and beginning back-to-school stress, so people are focused on other things,” said Eric Cooper, president and CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank. “We are just grateful for our partners and the opportunity for this event.”

Cooper served as a judge on a five-member panel that ranked the structures, even awarding a prize for the structure with the most orange, the official color of hunger awareness.

“It spurs creativity and I think it starts the conversation,” Cooper added. “Whether it’s the bigger conversation about hunger and poverty, or people asking what they can do to help starting at home or simply calling the Food Bank, it makes a difference.”

President and CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank Eric Cooper gives a speech about hunger at the awards ceremony. Photo by Scott Ball.
President and CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank Eric Cooper gives a speech about hunger at the awards ceremony. Photo by Scott Ball.

The judges panel included Rivard Report Director of Marketing and Development Jaime Solis, SA Live Host Fiona Gorostiza, architect for The City of San Antonio Carol Warkoczewski and Whataburger representative Chris Martin.

The competition didn’t require teams to follow a specific theme, but they were asked to develop creative, eye-catching concepts that would hold people’s attention in a crowded, busy mall. Participants were asked to avoid putting tape or velcro over the labels because a ripped or missing nutritional label is useless to food banks.

“The one that I really liked was the ‘Hero 4 Hunger,’” Gorostiza said. “The structural integrity of that one and the cow (‘Take Hunger by the Horns’ created by Overland Partners) was incredible, they didn’t use any popsicles or rubber bands to hold the cans in place;I was quite impressed.”

The Best Creative Use of the Color Orange went to PBK Architects’  “Hero 4 Hunger,” a play on Disney’s Big Hero 6 movie, with the main figure standing on an orange platform. The Best Meal Award went to the Marmon Mok Architecture team’s “Anything is Popsicle,” which created three dream-scale paletas using canned foods that would make the best balanced meal. Beaty Palmer Architects won The Best Use of Labels Award for “Abraham Lincan,” cleverly arranging the colors of the can labels to represent the President in his trademark stovepipe hat, surrounded by the American flag. Alamo Architects and Turner Construction earned an Honorable Mention for “MexiCANa,” an impressively made Flamenco dancer, complete with a colorful can dress and a fruit snack comb.  

Ultimately, MDN Architects took home the Judge’s Favorite Award for  “JAWS, Take A Bite Out of Hunger” (see top photo). After the event ends on Sept. 26, the shark will be deconstructed and then rebuilt for the San Antonio Food Bank’s lobby, where it will remain on display for a year.

The People’s Choice Award will be given to the team that wins the most votes via an online survey here

The “canstructions” will be on display at North Star Mall until Sept. 26. Apparel stores like The Limited have already set out Food Bank collection bins, offering a discount on select items to visitors who shop and donate canned goods.  Click here to learn more about this month’s Hunger Awareness events hosted by the San Antonio Food Bank and community partners like Whataburger. When you stop and eat at any Whataburger in Bexar County on Tuesday, Sept. 22, between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., the restaurant will donate a meal to the San Antonio Food Bank.

*Top image: MDN Architects “JAWS, Take a Bite Out of Hunger.  Photo by Scott Ball.

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Lea Thompson

Lea Thompson is a Texas native who has lived in Houston, Austin and San Antonio. She enjoys exploring new food and culture events. Follow her adventures on Instagram, Twitter or Culture Spoon.