Canned Art

Status: Real (though probably glued together)
Kathy forwarded me these pictures of sculptures made entirely from cans. She notes that: "It says 'stacked can art' but I can't see how some of these are not glued together. How could they stand up that well, unless they got glued together?"

I agree. There's no way glue hasn't been used in some of these sculptures. Particularly the one of the butterfly, in which a few of the cans appear to be totally unsupported. The sculptures were created for the Canstruction Contest, which is a contest sponsored by the Society for Design Administration for the Design and Construction Industry. According to the contest blurb:
Competing teams, lead by architects and engineers, showcase their talents by designing giant sculptures made entirely out of canned foods. At the close of the exhibitions all of the food used in the structures is donated to local food banks for distribution to pantries, shelters, soup kitchens, elderly and day care centers.
So they say that the sculptures are made entirely out of canned foods, but they don't claim that no glue was used. Therefore I'm assuming that glue is permissible. Many more examples of Canned Art can be viewed at the Canstruction Slideshow.

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Posted on Wed Jun 28, 2006


Glue doesn't neccesarily have to be used. Check out the site below. This guy doesn't use glue and what he does is definitely more fragile than this.
Posted by RedNeckOreo  on  Wed Jun 28, 2006  at  04:39 PM
According to the website, "Structurally self-supporting, the only other materials to be used are 1/4
Posted by ScienceGeek  on  Wed Jun 28, 2006  at  04:58 PM
Definately something holding them together or they would have some kind of border around the exhibits, but they do not. Look at how close the man is to the butterfly. One five-year old kid running around and that would be the end of it. (not to mention the danger of a bunch of heavy cans tumbling down)
Posted by Grain  on  Wed Jun 28, 2006  at  05:22 PM
I suppose it can be done without an adhesion agent, if they are stacked in a certain sequence. The straight floor-up method probably wouldn't do well for the overall construction.

Although, seeing stacks of the cans on their sides that are not making a break for it just for being on their curved sides is kinda cool.
Posted by EjWise  on  Wed Jun 28, 2006  at  09:53 PM
I like the way the mermaid seems to be made mostly out of tinned sardines.
Posted by Owen  on  Thu Jun 29, 2006  at  05:00 AM
Posted by You're All Crazy  on  Thu Jun 29, 2006  at  05:20 AM
there must be some glue or nails used..
check the butterfly.. some cans are "flying"
Posted by frank  on  Thu Jun 29, 2006  at  05:22 AM
There's no necessarily something holding them together. Canned foods have enough weight, that assuming the structure is sound (engineers and architects were making these) it would take a lot of force to know them over.

Even things like the butterfly could use the materials listed on the website. It's much more impressive and fun to build if you don't use glue.
Posted by gabuhaha  on  Thu Jun 29, 2006  at  06:31 AM
I've built such structures with a local architecture firm. You'll notice that one of the allowed materials is 1/4" leveling. This is often MDF board that has been cut to a specific shape. It is placed on top of a layer of cans, and the next layer of cans on top of that. You are able to create some pretty inpressive cantilevers this way. Glue is NOT used. Why? Because then it would require a clean disassembly, because the canned food is then donated to the local food banks in the cities where these sculpture contests are held. Not easy to do when cans are glued together! For anyone interested, this competition is held every year, and the scuptures are often put in museums, shopping malls or other such spaces for free viewing by the public. Yes, once in a while someone will knock part of one down, usually by accident. But surprisingly, people are very cautious and tend to leave the scuptures alone.
Posted by Mike Pettinger  on  Thu Jun 29, 2006  at  08:25 AM
I'll quote Science guy:
According to the website, "Structurally self-supporting, the only other materials to be used are<b> 1/4
Posted by Maegan  on  Thu Jun 29, 2006  at  08:25 AM
If they use tape, then aren't they using glue?
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Thu Jun 29, 2006  at  09:07 AM
I visited Canstruction this year in New York, and took some pictures of some of the same can structures.

From what I saw, they did indeed use the materials allowed; some of King Kong's arms and such were pretty ingeniously balanced and held together with rubber bands. I never saw glue, which I suspect wouldn't help too much from the weight of the cans. The one milk carton was disqualified from a prize because they used a wooden frame structure inside, but all the others are just stacked cans, cleverly balanced.

There were 5-year olds running around, but there was a guard at each sculpture keeping a close eye and warning people to get back. They did have at least two mishaps where someone knocked over a sculpture, which happens pretty much every year.

You can see my photos on Flickr, along with lots of other people's:
Posted by Steph Mineart  on  Thu Jun 29, 2006  at  09:38 AM
Sorry, Alex, you're wrong on the glue thing. Games Magazine did a feature story on this whole Canstruction phenomenon last year. These 'sculptures' are planned in advance using CAD software and generally built by groups of engineers or other mechanically inclined folks. Cardboard and rubber bands, sure. Glue, no way.
Posted by jake  on  Fri Jun 30, 2006  at  11:30 PM
This is pretty cool and impressive, whether or not glue or any other supports were used. However, WHERE is the Snoopy photo on the front page??? That's my favorite one.
Posted by Gero  on  Mon Jul 03, 2006  at  09:46 AM
Well, now that I see that they can use thin strips of wood, I see how they built the things. I didn't figure that out before. Teach me to keep surfing at night when my brain is dead. 😛
Kathy~aka "thephrog"
Posted by thephrog  on  Sun Jul 09, 2006  at  12:45 AM
Actually there is no glue or other bonding agent holding these structures together. Using glue would invalidate the original idea behind these awe inspirering creations; I wouldn't call them works of art. In areas where the cans seem to be defying gravity is because they use a very thin support between layers of cans that becomes almost invisible such as a thin laminate or sheet metal. These supports are held in place by the weight of the cans and can expand outward thus creating the ilusion of floating when in fact the cans are simply resting on these deceiving devises.
Posted by Karim  on  Tue Jul 11, 2006  at  08:09 PM
Canstruction will be at Metalcon International 16th Annual Trade Show & Conference which will be in Tampa, FL October 3-5 2006. There will be competing teams of students building, and the cans will be donated to the local county food bank.
Posted by discount dirt  on  Mon Aug 07, 2006  at  02:34 PM
I wrote the article "Canned Wonders" for Games Magazine. Just want to reiterate what the above posters said: no glue is used! Don't forget these structures are created by architect-led teams who take a lot of pride in their work. If you want to learn the techniques of building with cans AND get involved in this charity effort, you can start/join a Canstruction group in your area. The full article is posted at

"Since structures must be self-supporting, two-by-fours and half-inch plywood are against the rules. Leveling materials such as cardboard and quarter-inch foam are allowed, as are clear tape, wire and rubber bands. 'We try to stress that you are going to be judged by the purity of the structure,' says Cheri Melillo [Canstruction's founder], who notes that entries have become increasingly sophisticated over the past 12 years. If the judges have to choose between a stunning structure that relies on stacking techniques versus one that uses a layer of cardboard between each layer of cans, the pure structure is more likely to be the winner because it was more of a challenge to build."
Posted by tricia vita  on  Mon Aug 21, 2006  at  09:06 AM
If tape can be used, then they are using a form of glue. Certainly not permanent, but clear tape without any glue would be called "plastic ribbon."


I've only seen 2 useful forms of tape without glue - one is used in drywalling (the drywall mud could be considered the "glue" possibly) and the other was used in the computer industry, called "paper tape" - an early form of data storage & program distribution. Early MicroSoft BASICs for the Altair & other machines were originally distributed on paper tape.

Roger "Merch" Merchberger
Posted by Roger  on  Thu Jun 21, 2007  at  03:32 PM
Posted by ID  on  Wed Feb 06, 2008  at  05:02 PM
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