CAN-DO SPIRIT: From left, Carmen Warner, Michael Dowhan and team captain Andrea Torizzo discuss plans for their Canstruction project at Northeast Collaborative Architects’ Providence office.
PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
By Rhonda J. Miller PBN Staff Writer
At a food pantry in North Kingstown in February, a husband and wife arrived with their two young children, in hopes of picking up enough nourishment to make ends meet through the month. The woman was working 24 hours a week, all the hours she could get, and the husband, who hopes to find a job in landscaping, takes care of the children.
“I talked with the family. This man told me he was drinking coffee and juice so the children could have food,” said Cindy Elder, spokesperson for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.
“Sadly, the need for food in Rhode Island has continued to increase,” said Elder.” With the food bank feeding 68,000 people a month through its statewide network of food pantries, it continues to find avenues to meet the steadily increasing need since it supplied food to 37,000 people in 2008.
One of the more creative avenues to, literally, building up food supplies for the needy in Rhode Island is the Canstruction competition held this month in the Skybridge concourse at Providence Place mall. The event, which culminates with a March 17 judging, showcases innovative structures constructed with nonperishable food items, mostly cans, that eventually find their way to needy families through the food bank.
For the seven teams that participated this year, it was both an architectural challenge and a community service.
The competition, held every other year, pits teams of architects, builders and engineers in a fast and friendly one-day build-out that’s a result of many hours of planning, drawing and ordering cans with just the right color label to create an artistic statement and collaboration among many Rhode Island businesses.
“[We worked] at one of the shops testing ideas and the first one failed miserably,” said Bruce Vallone, a structural engineer with Odeh Engineers in North Providence, who is on a team that includes volunteers from Providence-based Durkee, Brown, Viveiros & Werenfels Architects.
“We’re only allowed to use certain materials. We’re using cans, some boxes of pasta, a lot of rubber bands and stretch wrap. We’re using some masonite – we’re only allowed to use a thin board to help level the cans,” he said.