HLZAE & Stoop Kid Make Debut at Canstruction 2018

January 24, 2019

Howard L. Zimmerman Architects & Engineers, P.C. (HLZAE) participated in its first Canstruction New York competition held at Brookfield Place in November 2018. With a team of 10, we designed a structure titled Evict Hunger, which was comprised of a stoop kid sitting in front of two brownstones.

Evict Hunger!

Started in 1992, Canstruction is a unique international non-profit organization providing canned food to local food banks in more than 150 cities around the world. Every year architects, engineers, and contractors compete to design and build giant structures made entirely of healthy canned food. At the close of the New York competition, all the food is donated to City Harvest, the city’s largest food rescue organization. To learn more about Canstruction, click here.

HLZAE’S Evict Hunger was built with 3,654 cans that will feed 3,478 New Yorkers and took about 6.5 hours to build. The concept interpreted hunger as an unwanted tenant and underscored the importance of starting the fight against hunger in our own homes. An open window in one of the brownstones represents a window of opportunity to teach our families that it takes a village to chase hunger out of our neighborhoods, while the stoop kid reminds us that both adults and children are impacted by hunger.

Alexandra Graham (left), Alec Woletz (bottom right), and Carol Hayden (middle) helping to build more of the windows and walls of the structure.

The team was led by Thomas Pentoney and Alec Woletz, along with Alexei Tajzler, who acted as the Registered Architect for the build, and with assistance from Carol Hayden, Alexandra Graham, Ali Turan, John Baker, Adam Kagdis, Philip Wong, and Jane Gertler from our office. Each team is responsible for procuring canned food to be used for the structure. Our founder and principal Howard L. Zimmerman kindly sponsored this year’s Canstruction team.

Alexei Tajzler, R.A helping to build the bottom layer of the brownstones.

The journey to create the perfect structure wasn’t without trial and error. More than 4,000 cans were ordered before the team was certain of the structural stability of the sculpture or knew if their idea would read well with viewers. Starting with a few brainstorming sessions, HLZAE ended up with two possible ideas for their structure. After three SketchUp concepts were submitted by team members, they ultimately decided on the brownstone designed by Thomas Pentoney. Jane mentioned during the final session “I think this is really something we haven’t seen before. [This design] is a symbolic representation of what we stand for as a brand and as a company,” Jane added. For nearly 40 years, HLZAE has worked on many different types of façade restoration projects; this design is a perfect, fun representation of the firm’s focus on the building envelope.

Thomas Pentoney (center), Alec Woletz (left), and Cesar Herrera (right) reviewing the plans during the build.

Several minor revisions were made to Thomas’s design over the course of a few months, including the addition of the stoop kid figure to the brownstones. This was followed by two test builds to make sure that the structure was possible. The test builds also helped the team figure out what other materials may be needed to secure the structure. The team began to get a bit creative with the brownstone by adding cornices, window sills, and an open window. SketchUp was a tremendous help in the process; the program allowed the team to calculate how many cans were needed for the entire structure and what the labels and colors would look like once installed.

Alexei Tajzler (left), Adam Kagdis (middle), and Ali Turan (right) building the roof of the brownstones.

Another challenge the team faced with Evict Hunger was how to keep the cornices intact since they are cantilevered from the top of the structure. Philip explained that the team tried supporting them with rubber bands and fishing line because they had seen this used on other builds, but these options were tedious and stretched over time. One day, while at a job site, Philip saw a zip tie and had the idea to use it on the build. Zip ties were used on all areas where the cans were cantilevered from the structure. Since the zip ties were very strong and essentially invisible, they were also used for leveling between each layer of cans, giving the structure an effortless aesthetic than it would have had with other materials.

Philip Wong implementing the zip tie technique during the build.
View of the cantilevered portion of the build, with Philip Wong installing zip ties to secure the cans.

Evict Hunger could not have been created without the building team, Jane, who brought Canstruction to HLZAE, and Carol, who was responsible for the hidden logistics. “This has been, by far, the most collaborative, cooperative, and productive effort I have even been a part of” said Jane, who has worked on many Canstruction teams in the past. “Everyone was truly passionate about this experience.”

See you next year, Canstruction!

Meet the team! Carol Hayden, Alec Woletz, Robert Vella, Philip Wong, Ali Turan, Alexandra Graham, Jane Gertler, Thomas Pentoney, Adam Kagdis, Leslie Berman, and Alexei Tajzler




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