CANstruction, The Culture Shop, and Flora's Feathered Nest

Architects and engineers designed sculptures out of canned goods for
Canstruction. “Canspider to Eliminate Hunger” by Samaha Associates.
Photography by Kathryn A. Brown.

Food for Thought

Local architects build amazing creations from cans to combat hunger

Architects traded concrete, steel and glass for cans of food as member firms from the Northern Virginia chapter of the American Institute of Architects reshaped their creative energies for a fundraising exhibition at Ballston Common Mall in Arlington. The chapter’s Canstruction competition, held in April, was a benefit for the Arlington Food Assistance Center. On April 6, awards were given out at Rock Bottom Brewery in the mall.

More than 80 Canstruction competitions will take place in cities across the U.S. this year. This creative design/build competition invites architects and engineers to showcase their talents by designing giant sculptures made out of canned goods. The cans are provided by participating firms and other donors and sponsors. Following a public exhibition, the sculptures are broken down and thousands of cans of food are donated to local food banks for distribution to shelters, soup kitchens and other aid groups.

“Paint the Town ‘FED’” was the jurors’ favorite in the Virginia competition. Seen from ground level, the oversized paint can by Grimm + Parker dripped with colors of paint—an illusion created by the colors of the cans. From above, labels on the inside of the paint can reveal a silver lining.

A spider with legs of spaghetti boxes by Samaha Associates won an honorable mention and an iPod of cans by Wisnewski Blair & Associates won for Best Meal—a choice of meat, veggies and drink mix was on the play list.

Others were subtle and provocative. An award for Structural Ingenuity went to Gensler’s “Knock Out Hunger,” a boxing glove of tomato cans, rhythmical in its concave and convex forms. Best Use of Labels went to PSA-Dewberry, Inc., for “CANdidates,” three political candidates, each standing behind a podium, the female in her ubiquitous red suit. Did the particular choice of food indicate their cultural backgrounds? This display drew much speculation.

To see more Canstruction entries from Ballston Common, visit A Canstruction competition will take place in Washington from September 9 to 16, 2006, at The Shops at 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, to benefit the Capital Area Food Bank. For more information on this and other Canstruction competitions nationwide, visit

The Culture Shop

A Mecca to eclectic, socially conscious home furnishings opens in Takoma Park

How can you go around the world without ever having to leave DC? Just step into The Culture Shop, located next to the Red Line’s Takoma Metro station. It’s a sleekly designed, socially conscious shrine to traditional global craftsmanship that adds new luster to a mature Washington residential neighborhood.

Under the motto “Worldly Goods for Worldly People,” this light-filled emporium is the brainchild of visionary arbiter Mona Davies in partnership with her husband, Valentine. For 15 years, Mona Davies was a buyer for the Smithsonian’s shops and catalogue. “That’s where I fell in love with indigenous crafts and the people who made them,” she recalls. There she also cultivated the sources to stock her dream store with an international cornucopia of one-of-a-kind pieces in home décor, jewelry, tableware, textiles, paper goods and more from nearly every continent.

Davies, who was a design major at Virginia Common- wealth University, doesn’t just discover pretty and useful wares as they are. She also works directly with the artisans in product development, enlightening them about the latest trends in areas like color preference and style. So even though the shop specializes in preserving a distinctive native aesthetic, Davies ensures that her inventory is a tempting fusion. It’s respectfully authentic with a hip, modern flare.

It’s affordable too. From funky baskets to pottery and art glass, most items sell for less than $100 each. With many offerings ideal for creative gift-giving or adding a bit of contrast to your own look, you can buy to your heart’s content and feel great about it. That’s because The Culture Shop is affiliated with the Fair Trade Federation, supporting the movement to provide low-income workers in developing countries with a living wage for their output.

The Culture Shop is located at 341 Cedar Street, NW; Washington, DC; (202) 726- 2211;

A New Perch in Potomac

Flora’s offers a wide range of art and accessories to feather your nest

Gather your friends and flock to Flora’s Feathered Nest. The new shop housed in a vintage 1930s barn turned boutique in Potomac is a verdant destination for home and garden furnishings, accessories and gifts. Armed with more than 35 years of combined expertise in the horticultural and giftware industries, founders Marcia Copenhaver and Peggy Deitrick have spread their talented wings to create a lush sanctuary brimming with ceramics by Magenta, John Margeaux tableware, furniture, art, figurines, home fragrances, soaps and candles.

The two took inspiration and the name from Copenhaver’s mother, who was an artist. “We wanted a place that offered home décor that’s elegantly shabby,” notes Copenhaver.

iCan by Winewski Blair and Associates; photography by Kathryn A. Brown.Adds Deitrick, “We really like gardenesque things and animals and nature-inspired things,” which is in full evidence both inside and outside Flora’s walls.

They stock a wide range of fresh and silk flowers and Copenhaver’s reputation for outstanding container gardens keeps her inundated with requests. “We were such snobs about live flowers, we said we’d never do fauxs,” she explains. “But, customer demand has made faux really big here.”

Natural gifts abound. Handmade pottery by Guy Wolff patterned from Williamsburg designs, Campo De Fiori aged terracotta with real moss and classic birdhouses will delight the most discriminating gardener. The barn’s wrap-around porch stocks a wide range of statuary, cast animals and garden seating mingled among flowers and plants.

On the second floor of the shop, a loft houses a tableau of simple to embellished wares. Hard-to-find beach house décor flanks unique items like large wrought-iron lanterns, a wooden dog bench and carved folding screens. Kristina Fine’s framed pressed flower work and Deborah Pearson’s ornithology canvases grace Flora’s walls along with re-mastered equestrian and dog prints, gyclees and engravings.

A friendly atmosphere, good prices and a no-pressure approach make Flora’s a most refreshing stop. “We’re like the local beauty salon. What happens in Flora’s, stays in Flora’s,” notes Deitrick.

Flora’s Feathered Nest is located at 12211 River Road, Potomac. Phone (301) 765-0003 or visit the Web site

The Culture Shop is a Mecca to eclectic, socially conscious home
furnishings in Takoma Park. Photography by Kenneth M. Wyner.

The Culture Shop in Takoma Park. Photography by Kenneth M. Wyner.

Flora’s Feathered Nest in Potomac stocks a wide range of furniture,
art and accessories for home and garden.

Assorted tableware at Flora’s Feathered Nest.

Copenhaver’s custom flower arrangements are a big hit at Flora’s.