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Canned art draws oooohs and awe

By Bradley Gallo, CNN
  • Cans of food turn into Mr. Potato Head, King Kong, a "Tomato Tornado"
  • Architects and engineers used 100,000 cans in 25 sculptures
  • After competition, all the cans of food used are donated to City Harvest

New York (CNN) -- What happens when you give thousand of cans of food to really creative people? How about a "canned" tornado or an "uncanny" sculpture of an apple being eaten by ants.

Swarms of people are being delighted by the construction work in New York's World Financial Center during the city's 18th Annual CANstruction Competition.

On display are 25 sculptures created from more than 100,000 cans of food -- designed and built by architects and engineers.

Mia Tsiamis, a structural engineer from the firm ARUP, has been her team's captain for five years. Their entry "Cangsta's Paradise" took three months to design and 10 hours to build.

"The whole process is a lesson in project management. It's certainly a challenge squeezing it in with the rest of our daily work," said Tsiamis.

New York is one of about 100 cities around the world taking part in the international charity competition known as CANstruction that is aimed at helping the hungry.

Rules allow each team five people to work on their entry. The cans cannot be bound with glue or adhesives and designers are not allowed to color the cans -- so there is endless time donated to finding the tuna or bean cans with the properly colored labels for the particular design.

Among the entries were an enormous Mr. Potato Head, the original Battleship board game, King Kong, Russian Babushka dolls and the Metropolitan Transit Authority designed a train.

"With some of the sculptures, you have to stand way back to see what has been created," said Daniel Garwood, a volunteer with American Institute of Architects, one of the presenters of the competition.

CANstruction winners

Jurors' Favorite: The BabushCAN by Thornton Tomasetti

Best Meal: Paint the Town "Fed" by Dattner Architects

Best Use of Labels: I Think I "Can" by MTA New York City Transit

Honorable Mention: Cups Can Only Spill by Gilsanz Murray Steficek

Honorable Mention: Tomato Tornado by Skidmore Owings and Merrill

Best Structural Ingenuity: FEASTer Island by LERA

A representation of Mario and Luigi of the "Mario Brothers" video games is one of those objects better seen from afar.

Children were especially excited to see the exhibits, snapping pictures and staring in awe. Second- and third-graders of The Mustard Seed School in Hoboken, New Jersey, visited the site on a field trip.

"This year we are teaching them about buildings, foundations and service projects so this is the perfect combination!" said art teacher Lynn Hamill.

The youngsters were running around the larger-than-life canned art feverishly trying to complete an assignment.

Jennifer Groce, a parent chaperone for the school, was trying to focus the kids' excitement. "They have to sketch the different projects and write down how many cans each structure is made of and how many New Yorkers will it feed," Groce said.

The children picked favorites but their top choices changed each time they saw the next structure down the line.

"I love Mario," one student said. "Oh and this one too!" He was pointing at another one.

Celebrity chef and cookbook author Rocco Dispirito and host of Bravo's TV show "Top Chef: Just Desserts" Gail Simmons are among this year's judges who selected the winning sculptures.

CANstruction is designed to raise hunger awareness during the Thanksgiving season. All of the cans used in the contest will be donated to City Harvest for distribution to programs that feed impoverished New Yorkers.

Co-Presented by the American Institute of Architects, the Society for Design Administration and Arts World Financial Center, Canstruction is on display until November 22.