The 5th Annual Gingerbread Build-Off: Who Knew Architecture Could Be So Sweet?

You know that you are dealing with professional architects when blustering winds fail to blow down skyscrapers constructed with cookies and spackled with frosting. Of course, I am referring to the 5th Annual Gingerbread Build-Off, which was hosted by Architecture Center Houston in conjunction with C2 Creative this past weekend.

For the second year in a row the Build-Off was held at City Hall's Hermann Square; it had outgrown the Caroline Collective, where it was originally staged. Only six teams participated in the inaugural event; this year, there were 32 crews.

While many of the teams participating were representing architecture firms, designers and builders from print shops and design studios were also on hand. In addition, a section of the perimeter was dedicated to teams made up of high school students.

A group of students from Cypress Creek High School, who erected a gingerbread version of the Williams Tower, told me that they were headed to UH's College of Architecture and were sharpening their skills on gingerbread cookies.

Members of the team from the Art Institute of Houston had just finished their finals the day before and still had sufficient brainpower to create Frank Lloyd Wright's "Falling Water;" they took home the 1st Runner-Up Prize.

This year's designs ranged from kitschy to innovative, from traditional to political. The Astrodome showed up, repurposed as an indoor arena with a candy wrecking ball hiding eerily behind the dome. Other Houston motifs included an artistic commentary on the controversial Ashby High Rise. The gingerbread tower was covered in green frosting and made to look like the Grinch. The Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park and tower seemed to be a popular subject, as three different teams took on the iconic park. Each one looked completely different.

My personal favorite was Hogwarts Castle, which was created by the Gensler architecture firm. A massive structure, the castle itself was made from 40 pounds of gingerbread and sat atop a mountain ridge of Rice Krispie treats. The team used 14 pounds of powdered sugar, 80 bags of marshmallows and 30 boxes of Rice Krispies. No detail was left out, right down to fondant representations of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. The castle won the 2nd Runner-Up Prize.

This year's Grand Prix de Show was given to the team of Kirksey Architecture/Shade Heights for its design of the London Tower Bridge. Their name may sound familiar if you were at last year's Build-Off; they took top honors then as well. The gingerbread bridge opened up to let a chocolate graham-cracker-and-candy-cane steamboat sail through.

Rocio Subirá from AIA Houston said he was pleased with this year's turnout. Despite the strong gusts of wind andcold temperatures, a sizable crowd filled Hermann Square excited to see this year's sweet creations.

The complete list of this year's winners are:

  • Grand Prix de Show: Kirksey Architecture / Shade Heights with London Tower Bridge
  • 1st Runner up: Art Institute of Houston with Falling Water
  • 2nd Runner Up: Gensler with Hogwarts Castle
  • Public Favorite: Seeberger Architecture
  • Tallest Structure: PBK Kung Fu Candy Crushers (50")
  • Best Non-Traditional: Eggersmann
  • Best Traditional: PDR The Classic
  • Architecture Icon: PDR Jingle Bell Demo with Foley's
  • Most Creative Use of Materials: Page Southerland Page with Blizzard of Oz

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