Design Decoded: When Architects Build With Gingerbread


Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum, as imagined in gingerbread by Caitlin Levin and Henry Hargreaves (image:

Around this time every year, architects around the world are inspired to tie on their black Prada aprons, roll up their sleeves and apply their seven-plus years of education to the deliciously painstaking construction of gingerbread houses. Gingerbread was first brought to Europe in the late-10th century from the eastern Mediterranean and gingerbread shaping was a common practice by the 15th. However it wasn’t until 1812, when the Brothers Grimm first published Hansel and Gretl, the story of two young children who stumble across a cottage made of candy, that bakers began to build their gingerbread into cottages and houses. Fast forward a few centuries and gingerbread house-building has been elevated to new, almost unbelievable heights.  Seeing what these talented designers can create from cookies and confections is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season.

The most impressive displays I’ve seen do far this year come from food artists Caitlin Levin and Henry Hargreaves, who recently recreated some of the worlds most famous museums in gingerbread for Dylan’s Candy Bar, the luxury candy and chocolate shop. It is absolutely astounding to see what can be produced with gingerbread, frosting, spun sugar, and various other sweets.

I.M. Pei’s addition to the Louvre, as imagined in gingerbread by Caitlin Levin and Henry Hargreaves (image:

Of course, like brick-and mortar buildings, any appreciation of these gingerbread buildings benefits from excellent lighting and carefully composed photographs. But these works of art deserve nothing less, and the close-up photographs only accentuate the skill that went into creating these confectionary constructions.

The Tate Modern, as imagined in gingerbread by Caitlin Levin and Henry Hargreaves (image: (image: colossal)

Last year the architecture website Architizer held its inaugural architectural gingerbread house design competition and the submissions were more fun, more colorful, and just as accurate as architectural legos. Take the following two, for example:

A gingerbread model of Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House by April Reed Cake Design (image: architizer)

A gingerbread Fallingwater, always a classic choice. A collaboration between Tsontakis Architecture with Classic Cakes & Confections (image: architizer)

Seven more Modernist gingerbread houses can be seen at Architizer. Their 2013 competition is underway now and accepting entries until December 23.

For a different kind of architectural gingerbread, check out the two-story candy cottage built in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. This impressive feat, built by the hotel’s kitchen staff, uses nearly 4,000 pounds of sweets. Check out some of the incredible details on Curbed SF.

The two-story gingerbread house at the Fairmont. Just watch out for witches. (image: Patricia change via Curbed SF)

Finally, to see just how much time and effort goes into making a gingerbread house at this level, check out the following video from The White House, whose chefs made–what else–a replica of America’s First Home.

via Design Decoded