AUSTIN – Canstruction® was founded in 1992 by the late Cheri Melillo and her colleagues from the Society for Design Administration (SDA) with a vision of uniting design and engineering through a unique and fun medium that will improve the lives of the underprivileged and underserved.
Canstruction competitions are held annually in over 150 cities around the world – and someone has to organize them.
For the last nine years in Austin, those organizers have been Katarina Villasenor, COO and principal at Sixthriver Architects, and James Foster, architect at CTA Architects Engineers. Sixthriver is in its 22nd year and Villasenor has been there for 15. “I worked my way up to where I am, I started doing administrative work for dot.com companies,” Villasenor says. She says that with that previous technology experience, it has only enhanced the data driven responsibility that is required in managing a design firm.
Villasenor was born in Sweden and moved to Mexico where she also grew up. She moved to Texas in 1994 and has lived here for 17 years before pulling up stakes again. She now calls San Francisco home, although she spends two weeks out of every month in Austin and works remotely the other two weeks. “I don’t mind traveling back and forth at all,” she says.
Villasenor became part of Can-struction when she belonged to SDA, an affiliate for the American Institute of Architects (AIA). At the time, she was president of SDA, Central Texas chapter. “It really pulls at my heart to see the community come together industry wide – even competing architectural firms,” she says. “When we come together for Canstruction, I am working hand-in-hand with a variety of design firms. It’s great that we all can come together, to do this competition, and see the design structures that have been built out of cans which we then donate to the Central Texas Food Bank.”
Villasenor says even though pulling the event together is a significant commitment, she understands the need to help with addressing hunger in the community. She’s also been involved with Meals on Wheels and Fishes and Loaves [sic]. In her spare time, Villasenor loves to travel and says some of the places that stand out are Hawaii, Austria, Germany, France and Spain, although she is very much looking forward to an upcoming trip to the Galápagos Islands next month. This trip will allow her the opportunity to focus on her other hobby, photography.
Austin’s Canstruction event has been postponed until sometime in the fall. –cw