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

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Dunwoody police search for missing,  ‘disoriented’ woman
Dunwoody police search for missing,  ‘disoriented’ woman

Dunwoody police are asking the public for help this Thanksgiving to find a woman who was reported missing after she didn’t show up at her daughter’s house in Peachtree Corners.  Velma Harrison, 79, left her Dunwoody home Wednesday to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with her daughter and grandson.  Harrison never arrived. Instead...
Clerk shoots, wounds armed robbery suspect in Douglasville
Clerk shoots, wounds armed robbery suspect in Douglasville

A gas station clerk shot and wounded a man attempting an armed robbery, Douglasville Police said. The incident occurred at the Chevron station at 6590 Bankhead Hwy. in Douglasville Wednesday night just before 9:30 p.m. A man armed with a gun attempted to hold up the station but the clerk pulled his own weapon and shot the suspect once, police said...
Thanksgiving Day shooting in DeKalb County; 1 man dead
Thanksgiving Day shooting in DeKalb County; 1 man dead

Thanksgiving in Atlanta began with a fatal shooting at a DeKalb County Chevron station. DeKalb County Police said a 32-year-old man was shot and killed inside the gas station at 2691 Bouldercrest Rd. at about 1 a.m. Thursday after an argument with his assailant that began outside. Family members identified the victim as Andricus Harris. Harris stopped...
Turkey, mashed potatoes, and the re-birth of an idea for commuter rail
Turkey, mashed potatoes, and the re-birth of an idea for commuter rail

The Dunwoody MARTA station. The station is across the street from the High Street property that is a possible location for Amazon’s second headquarters — should the company choose Atlanta for its new home away from home. CASEY SYKES / CASEY.SYKES@AJC.COM A happy Thanksgiving Day to you and yours this morning. We at the Political...
Source: Mugabe granted immunity; safety in Zimbabwe ensured
Source: Mugabe granted immunity; safety in Zimbabwe ensured

Former President Robert Mugabe was granted immunity from prosecution and was assured that his safety in Zimbabwe would be protected, Reuters reported. The announcement was part of a deal that led to the 93-year-old’s resignation, sources told Reuters. Mugabe, who had led Zimbabwe since its independence from Great Britain in 1980, resigned...
More Stories