Sunday Conversation with Chris Yueh

Local architects, engineers, design firms and construction companies raise awareness of hunger


Where you look at a can of tuna or chicken soup and see lunch, others see Baby Groot or “Game of Thrones.” On Nov. 4, teams of architects, engineers and builders from across metro Atlanta had 10 hours to construct huge art displays — out of cans of food. The daylong build was the 19th public art competition put on by Canstruction Atlanta, a nonprofit benefiting the Atlanta Community Food Bank. The design/art competition has grown dramatically to 16 teams vying for bragging rights. The exhibition, constructed in the lobbies of Atlantic Station office buildings, is open to the public through Friday, Nov. 17. After that, all of those cans will be donated to the food bank. “People really need to see in person the level of creativity on display, all of it putting a spotlight on hunger in our community,” says Chris Yueh, director of programs of the American Institute of Architects’ Atlanta chapter and Canstruction Atlanta 2017 committee chair.

Q: Talk more about the competition.

A: Canstruction started out small with only a few architecture and engineering teams participating. Over the years, it has engaged more partners. A lot of credit has to go to the participating teams that come up with their own design, fundraise to buy the cans and assemble the structures themselves. It is a monumental effort.

Q: How much food has been donated through the competition?

A: Since 1992, this event has contributed more than 25 million pounds of food to the Atlanta Community Food Bank. In addition, it has raised more than $75,000 through registration fees and sponsorships. Every dollar the food bank receives translates into four meals for a family.

Q: Is there a limit to how many cans a team can use?

A: Not at all. The structure does need to fit in an area that is 10 feet long, 10 feet wide and 8 feet tall. Last year, a team built a structure that paid tribute to the Prince song “Kiss”made with 11,000 four-ounce tomato cans. Teams can use canned goods of all sizes plus wood, tape, rubber bands, wire and Velcro. The challenge is not just the idea but also the execution. The larger your structure is, the more challenging it is to make stable.

Q: Talk about some of the creations.

A: Over the years, we have had numerous Star Wars-themed structures. We’ve had a number modeled after local icons, from Marietta’s Big Chicken to Atlanta’s Fox Theatre. One year, one team created a human head that showed features of the globe. It was made completely of tuna cans. This year, there’s a Baby Groot from “Guardians of the Galaxy” and a “Game of Thrones” display, as well as the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Earth Goddess and a USS Arizona Memorial.

Q: Are teams super competitive?

A: All of these teams are comprised of local architects, engineering firms, designers and construction experts who compete with each other on a daily basis for projects. Here, they are competing for bragging rights. There is definitely a level of pride that comes when your structure receives one of the awards, including Best Meal, Best Original Design, Most Cans, Best Use of Labels, Structural Ingenuity and People’s Choice.

Q: Have you ever participated?

A: I never have. I lack the creativity that these teams constantly display. I am honored to participate as this year’s committee chair.

Q: Why do you think the competition has caught on?

A: It captures the imagination. It also offers a true team-building experience and allows people to bond and build camaraderie not only within their offices but also with other firms. Then it delivers a powerful message about the constant battle against hunger in our community.

The Sunday Conversation is edited for length and clarity. Writer Ann Hardie can be reached by email at ann.hardie@ymail.com.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Bond denied for woman accused of starting massive Paulding fire
Bond denied for woman accused of starting massive Paulding fire

A Paulding County judge denied bond Wednesday for a Hiram woman accused of starting a fire that destroyed or damaged 20 homes in her neighborhood. Channel 2 Action News reported the judge told Adrienne Satterly, 41, she was a “flight risk and risk to the community.” Authorities charged Satterly with 14 counts of arson after she allegedly...
Someone ran into Cobb’s historic covered bridge (again)
Someone ran into Cobb’s historic covered bridge (again)

The Concord Road Bridge can’t catch a break. About three weeks after the last whack, a vehicle hit the metal that protects the historic bridge, the county department of transportation tweeted out Wednesday. Workers in 2009 installed the beams, which look like a giant staple at the entrance of the bridge, to warn drivers of the seven-foot height...
Man indicted for allegedly bringing gun to Cobb school in gang payback
Man indicted for allegedly bringing gun to Cobb school in gang payback

A Mableton man has been indicted for allegedly bringing a gun to South Cobb High School in 2016 as retaliation for a gang fight the day before. Amarius Norris, who is alleged to have ties to the Bloods gang, was indicted Thursday on charges of carrying a gun on campus and theft, Cobb County court records show. Norris was 19 years old when police...
Community Lens for Feb. 22
Community Lens for Feb. 22

Calling amateur photographers! Have you taken a great picture that you’d like to share with the world? One with action, great lighting and/or interesting subjects? E-mail it to communitynews@ajc.com. Please no selfies, for-profit promotional pics, group shots or anything you wouldn’t want your grandma to see.
Here’s when a Girl Scout Cookie booth will be at Lenox Square Mall
Here’s when a Girl Scout Cookie booth will be at Lenox Square Mall

Haven’t gotten your hands on a box of your favorite Girl Scout Cookies yet, and wondering where to buy them in Atlanta? Soon, you’ll be able to swing by Lenox Square Mall to grab a box or five. A booth will be set up with Do-si-dos, S’mores, Samoas, Savannah Smiles, Tagalongs, Thin Mints, Toffee-tastic Gluten Free and ...
More Stories