CANstruction 2012

Photo © SOM

Canstruction, Inc. is a registered 501©(3) nonprofit organization that holds annual design and build competitions to construct fantastic, giant-sized structures made entirely out of canned food. In each city, after the structures are built and the winners declared, the creations go on view to the general public as art exhibits. At the close of the competitions, all of the food used in the structures is donated to the local food banks for distribution to community emergency feeding programs.

SOM's Concept: NarCANsus Jonquilla Hyperboloid (aka Daffodil)

SOM’s 2012 CANstruction entry, NarCANsus Jonquilla Hyperboloid (aka Daffodil), is a series of canted walls formed by cans stacked on their side in a concentric radial formation. As the structure ascends, each row leans outward slightly more than the row below. The resulting geometry is a hyperboloid. By producing a curved structure systematically, the stacking is manipulated to generate the floral daffodillic form.


There are two ways that a can may be stacked — upright or on its side. Traditionally cans are stacked vertically, allowing for no lateral interaction of individual cans and using a very strict known set of structural principles by default. By turning the can on its side, the curvature of the can creates a nestling effect, which allows the cans to interact and work together in a synergistic way. The structural form generated by this arrangement is a hyperboloid, which is a doubly ruled curved surface that can be built with straight lines.

Through computational modeling and physical testing, various key design elements were discovered and implemented. When the cans are laid flat on the ground in a radial orientation, they hyperboloid starts to take shape perpendicular to the ground. By modifying the start angle, the height of the wall of cans can be increased. Building the mockup, the maximum can angle was discovered before failure due to slippage, thus determining the maximum height.

The diameter of each ring was determined based on the spacing of each ring, the form of the flower, and the maximum height of each of the petal walls. The floral shape is defined by removing asymmetric portions of the hyperboloid to create three petals in each of the two outer rings. The center ring (a complete hyperboloid) forms the corona of the flower. Setting the cans in a series of concentric circles with alternating petal locations forms the final daffodil shape.


The can of choice, Campbell’s soup, was selected for its delicious flavor, label design, and tabbed lid. The labels and tabs are organized to provide an overall “souper” graphic of the structure on all surfaces. The label of the can on the edge of each petal is organized to display a little color. The lids are set to provide an organized wall for each of the petals. Lastly, the can orientation on the petals offsets the petals’ color.

CANstruction 2012 Chicago

May 10 – 30, 2012

The Merchandise Mart, First Floor
222 Merchandise Mart Plaza
Chicago, Illinois