Sep 18, 2023 - News

Wemby "prayer candle" fires up can competition in San Antonio

A group of people stand in front of an arrangement of canned goods designed to be a prayer candle.

The Canstruction team with their Wembanyama entry. Photo: Courtesy of Society for Design Administration, San Antonio chapter

He hasn't played a regular-season game yet, but Victor Wembanyama is seen as the Spurs' savior, reminiscent of a biblical story of salvation — and now there's an oversized mock vela, or prayer candle, to prove it.

What's happening: The Canstruction competition, featuring the Wemby vela, is on display at North Star Mall until Sept. 23. The contest produced by the American Institute of Architects and the Society for Design Administration challenges architects, engineers and contractors to complete structures made of canned goods.

  • This year's competition resulted in a variety of creations, including the Disney villain Ursula and a UTSA Roadrunner logo.
  • The Wemby vela has been a hit on X (formerly Twitter).

What they did: Elissa Maldonado, who worked on the Wemby design called "Lighting a CANdle for SA," tells Axios that CaptureRX, Alpha Engineering, Pape-Dawson and KCI Technologies teamed up for the build.

  • The contest's objective was to create something that highlights what makes the city unique, aiming for the most significant cultural impact.

What they're saying: Maldonado says Wemby has become an "instant symbol of hope and inspiration for the city" after the Spurs posted the third-worst record in the league last season.

Between the lines: Spurs fandom is ingrained in the heart of San Antonio, intertwining with the city's identity. It's evident in art, in kids named Ginobili and in the euphoria of getting caught in a traffic jam on Commerce Street with horns blaring.

  • Velas hold a deep-rooted significance in Latino culture, where they play a central role in Catholicism for healing and protection. In pop culture, traditional images of saints that adorn the candles are superimposed photos of celebrities.

By the numbers: About 3,600 cans of food were used to create the structure, which took seven hours, not accounting for the planning time and practice builds.

  • Canstruction is a national nonprofit dedicated to ending hunger. The canned goods will be donated to the San Antonio Food Bank after the contest.

What's next: The winner will be announced Sept. 30.

  • Online voting is available here.

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