Creating Art Out of Cans? CANstruction NYC Kicks Off Soon!

This week kicks off one of my favorite fall events in NYC – CANstruction! What is that, you ask? Well, it’s a super cool and creative event through which architects, engineers, and students all compete to create structures and images out of nothing but canned goods. And once the competition is over, all the food then get donated to City Harvest. Since CANstruction started their competition in 1992, they have collected more than 70 million pounds of food. How cool is that???

CANstruction Rose in Glass
The rose with falling petals from Beauty and the Beast

I don’t know how I first learned about CANstruction, but I’ve made attending an annual tradition the past several years.  CANstruction doesn’t just take place in NYC, though. Events actually happen all around the world in more than 150 cities in over a dozen countries. NYC hosts its event the first couple weeks of November at Brookfield Place in FiDi, and this year’s event runs from November 2nd through November 15th. There is no fee to attend, but you are asked to bring your own donation of canned goods, which you can leave in a drop box at Brookfield Place.

CANstruction Popeye

If you’ve never been to CANstruction, note that the displays are scattered throughout Brookfield Place on two levels, and they’re all numbered so that you can be sure that you see them all. Definitely follow those numbers so that you don’t miss anything because you’ll be amazed at how creative some of the designs are.  Some of the structures are classic designs that you’d recognize anywhere whereas others are very city-specific. In the case of NYC, there are often subways or other imagery that you may only appreciate if you’re a New Yorker (such as last year’s structure devoted to the infamous “Pizza Rat”). I suspect that events held in other cities will have their own city-specific images as well that will resonate most with those who live there.

CANstruction Fearless Girl
Fearless Girl and the Charging Bull

One of the things about CANstruction that is always interesting to me, though, is that many of the structures are hard to look at up close to where you can really understand what they are.  Instead, if you back up, or better yet, look at the image through your phone’s camera, suddenly everything comes into focus and you can get a better sense of what you’re seeing. Some of the structures are definitely more interesting than others, some require a little explanation from the nearby poster, and some are just really freaking amazing.  Here are some of my favorite designs from over the years.


Pizza Rat!







In addition to the main competitions run across various cities, CANstruction also offers programs for kids and young adults to get a taste of creating designs from cans, and you can sign up a classroom, youth group, community group, university, etc. to participate in both competition and non-competition events.  Not only is this a great idea for building teamwork skills and enhancing young people’s creativity, but I love that it also has a component for giving back to one’s community through food donations, too.

So, if you’re wandering around downtown NYC in the next couple weeks, pop into Brookfield Place to check out this year’s CANstruction. I promise you’ll be delighted and impressed by your fellow humans’ creativity! And don’t forget to bring a couple cans of yummy food to leave in the donation box on your way out.

Have you been to CANstruction in NYC or your own city?  Have you ever participated in designing a structure? Let me know about your experience with this super-cool fall event!

Plan Your Own Visit

Where to Go

  • CANstruction NYC takes place at Brookfield Place, formerly known as the World Financial Center, located at 230 Vesey Street in the Financial District.

When to Go

  • CANstruction NYC runs from November 2-November 15, from 10 am to 8 pm (note that the exhibit will officially close at 6 pm on the 15th).

Tips for Visiting

  • To ensure you see everything, follow the numbered signs throughout the exhibit.
  • The displays are on two levels of Brookfield Place, so don’t forget to check out both floors!
  • Most importantly, although this is a free event, you’re still requested to bring some canned goods to donate. There is a drop box where you can leave your donations, which will be greatly appreciated!

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