Spotted: Nine groups of architects and engineers tape swarming around the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota at 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday. And no, Lego-Land was not offering first come, first serve giveaways.

So what were 60+ of Minneapolis-St. Paul’s most creative A/E professionals doing on the rotunda floor before doors opened to the public? Feeding the hungry, that’s what.

More specifically, these nine teams each representing architecture and engineering firms across the metro area were competing in the area’s annual Canstruction competition. Canstruction, an international non-profit organization headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, motivates volunteer teams across the world to create larger-than-life structures constructed entirely of canned foods. The cans are then donated to a local food shelf, with Second Harvest receiving the 48,794-pound bounty from the 2016 Bloomington battle.

With intrigued curiosities, we caught up with ISG’s team lead and firm architectural designer, Tara Ketchum, to learn more about the event and story behind ISG’s local, General Mills-inspired structure.

First off, what was the inspiration for the Kix cereal box design?

From the beginning, our team knew we wanted to build a structure with ties to Minnesota culture. After several brainstorming sessions that focused on local icons and food-related designs, General Mill’s 150th anniversary was brought to the table. A box and bowl of cereal seemed like it would be fun, so we eventually settled on a “Kix Hunger” theme.

But why Kix out of all the General Mill’s products out there?

This was actually ISG’s first attempt at the competition, so we were looking for an idea that was colorful, interesting if recreated at a large scale, but not too complex. We chose Kix cereal because the box’s design could be easily replicated and would translate well at a large scale, and added the Big G on the back to recognize an important Minnesota company and the milestone 150th birthday. We also wanted to have something healthy since Canstruction focuses on using healthy choices and themes.

So did the team just show up with a pallet of cans and give it a go?

Oh no, this is where design and engineering skills came in full force. Several ISG team members stepped up to draft industry-standard plan sets for the design in 3D modeling software, SketchUp and Revit. All in all, it took several weeks of volunteer time to develop. And, of course, several shopping trips to find the best cans. It was definitely a process.

So what about the actual day of the event?

Only five team members can actually work on the structure at any given time, and each team is only allotted 12 hours to complete the build. With over 2,000 cans and a weight around 2,300lbs, our team managed to finish the structure in under five hours. The Mall of America is a busy place, so we were constantly interacting with shoppers, explaining the mess of cans in the middle of the mall. When you see over 900 cans butter kernel sweet corn and 700 of kidney beans, it's a bit intriguing! Some even thanked us and cheered us on.

Seems like a pretty cool event, but what made you give up a Saturday to stack canned beans?

As a firm, we really try to get involved in our communities and also inspire our staff to exercise their creativity outside the office. Our Minneapolis office is 1 of 8 within the firm of 230+ employees, open for about a year and a half. We’ve participated in Feed my Starving Children and were interested in supporting a similar cause through Second Harvest while providing a platform for our creative team to have fun on a unique project. Our office is also less than a mile from the MOA where all things aligned for a positive project!

Join the conversation #ISGIngenuityatWork #ISGTwinCities #2016Canstruction #GeneralMills #SecondHarvest #MOA

Meet Sam Boeck

Sam leads talent engagement at ISG, focusing on providing innovative and strategic direction for talent engagement initiatives, including professional development, culture, and recruitment. Frankly put, Sam embodies ISG’s culture and...