Every year, London‘s Museum of Architecture challenges architects to create a fantastic and futuristic city made entirely out of gingerbread, marshmallows, and other sweet treats. Now in its fourth year, Gingerbread City is a miniature candy land designed to consider the future of the urban environment and spark public dialogue about architecture and how we interact with the cities around us.
While the city itself is delightfully whimsical and theoretically edible, the ideas embodied within its sugar-coated walls represent real insights on technology and sustainability. With transportation as this year’s theme, over 100 designers contributed imaginative ways of rethinking mobility in cities while shining the holiday lights on how architects and planners approach both the urban and natural landscapes.
In order to participate, architects, designers, and engineers selected and purchased a plot from a master plan of the tiered city developed by Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design. Plot options ranged in size from “tiny” to “large,” as well as plots for specific London landmarks, landscapes, and bridges.
“Gingerbread City is a really important project for Tibbalds because of the way it makes everyone who visits think about cities and what they mean. It prompts questions about the many things that designers and place-makers have to deal with in creating interesting places that work for those that use them,” said Hilary Satchwell, director of Tibbalds, said in a recent press release. “Fast, fun, edible urbanism is a great way into some important discussions about the value of place.”
Complete with lighting, an operational train, and tons of punny names such as “Waffle Iron Tower,” “Wafer Bridge,” and “Gingerbread Modern,” this year’s Gingerbread City takes place at Somerset House, or “Sugarset House” as Hawkins\Brown titled their submission. Participants include returning architects such as Foster + Partners, SOM, PDP London, PLP Architecture, and Phase3. Many other firms have joined for the first time including Grimshaw, KPF, and HKS.
The city is complete with various districts including a University District, Cultural Quarter, Sustainable Quarter, Gingerbread Waterfront, Castle Hill, and London Quarter Island. Building types include mixed-use, bridges, houses, a stadium, university, train station, urban farm, ferry terminal, and many other spaces that are critical to the contemporary city.
With more than 40,000 public visitors annually, this year’s exhibition will also include a series of gingerbread house making workshops for families as well as a shop. The Museum of Architecture is also celebrating the launch of a new grant-giving fund which will support projects that engage the public with architecture. According to Melissa Woolford, the museum’s founder and director, “The Gingerbread exhibition supports our year-round work as an architectural charity and this year sees us able to set up a grant-giving fund so we can support more public-facing and entrepreneurial projects.”
Gingerbread City is currently on display at Somerset House and will be on view through January 5, 2020.