December 14, 1998 12:00 PM

An eight-foot-high sculpture of the Beatles. A 700-can model of the Statue of Liberty’s torch. Giant renditions of two works by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya—made entirely from Goya products. Why all the fuss over cans? “Architects live to compete,” says Cheri Melillo, executive director of CANSTRUCTION—a 30-city contest in which teams from architectural and engineering firms vie to turn packaged food into witty works of art. Participants like to give too: After being judged in categories such as Structural Ingenuity and Best Use of Labels, each city’s sculptures will be dismantled to provide what organizers hope will amount to some 500,000 pounds of food to local charity pantries. (Contests will be held in more cities through next spring.)

Sponsored by the Society of Design Administration and the American Institute of Architects, CANSTRUCTION, now in its sixth year, attracts some pretty tough sardines. In New York City, where 27 teams squared off last month in the visitors lobby of the United Nations building, architect Evan Thayer, 24, boasted that his team’s Best Meal-winning ocean wave, made of 1,500 tins of tuna, shark, mackerel and other fish (topped by a submarine built of yellow Jell-O boxes), would make “not a bad little seafood risotto.” Then, to the also-rans, he philosophized, “It’s not about winning. It’s about getting 60,000 cans together for charity—and ha ha ha.”

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