A team of University of Richmond facilities staff, along with architects of BCWH Architects, built a small-scale replica of the E. Claiborne Robins Stadium out of cans and boxes of food, winning the award of Best Meal in the Canstruction Competition on Thursday, Oct.28.

Canstruction, a national competition in its 14th year, invites teams to design and create structures out of canned goods in local competitions; the food from the Richmond competition is later donated to the Central Virginia Food Bank. The designs were on display at the James Center, a mixed-use project space downtown, for two weeks before the awards luncheon on Thursday.

Each year, the structures follow a set theme, which this year was "harvest." The other three teams and their designs were Wiley Wilson Architecture & Engineering's "Fresh From the Patch," with jack-o-lanterns; Glave & Holmes Architecture's "the Harvest Moon," depicting a night sky; and Cornerstone Architects' "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," according to a Central Virginia Food Bank press release. In keeping with the theme, the official title of Richmond and BCWH's stadium replica was "Watching Richmond Spider Football After Thanksgiving Meal."

Dave Merchan, project engineer for the university, was the leader of the 10-person team, responsible for organizing the construction and raising money, he said. The way fundraising for Canstruction works, Merchan said, was by asking local contractors and construction companies for donations on behalf of Canstruction, which were then used to buy the supplies.

For Merchan and his team, those supplies were 900 boxes of spaghetti, 2,200 cans of diced tomatoes and about 300 bags of brown rice, he said. Small boxes of raisins were also used to create the stadium's arches, which Merchan said was a challenge, because it was such a detailed aspect of the stadium.

"We had to be creative to replicate that," Merchan said.

The spaghetti boxes were used for the stadium's stands, the bags of rice for the track and the cans for the outside of the stadium, he said. The cans matched the color of the brick exterior.

Merchan, who has participated in the competition twice before with different firms, said the entire structure had been completed in about three hours, which had been much quicker than he expected.

Bill Clancy, chairman of the local Canstruction competition, said the best meal award was given based on how well the food components went together to form a meal; for example, how nutritious or protein-filled it was.

According to an e-mail from Clancy, 8,136 cans were used in the structures, and the competition raised $4,000 for the food bank, $2,000 of which came from a silent auction at the luncheon.

Brenda Miller, the food and fund drive manager for the Central Virginia Food Bank, said the competition "brought in a lot of food and money, which was especially important heading into the holiday season."

Contact staff writer Elizabeth Hyman at elizabeth.hyman@richmond.edu

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