The Gingerbread City 2019

Melissa Woolford of the Museum of Architecture explains the inspiration behind the amazing Gingerbread City project and looks forward to this year's installation...

Early in my career at Zaha Hadid Architects, I noticed two things. One, that architects were struggling when setting up their own practices due to a lack of business skills, and two, that architects were just talking to themselves about issues that involved the built environment and not people outside the industry who inhabit or commission spaces.

I set up the Museum of Architecture charity to help architects be more entrepreneurial and to create a dialogue between the public and architects - to enable people to get more involved in how their communities take shape. One of our yearly projects that does the latter is The Gingerbread City, which is an entire imaginary city made out of gingerbread and sweets.

Architecture practices of all sizes participate, including Foster+Partners, Grimshaw, SOM, Hildrey Studio, Turner Works, Phase3 and more. This year we hope to have over 100 architects involved.

Please see the video of last year's exhibition from BBC London

The exhibition will be held at Somerset House from the 7 December 2019 to 5 January 2020. We have had over 50,000 visitors to date and the funds raised help to support our programming, including a new grant giving fund that will launch in the Spring of 2020 to support projects that are in line with our mission as a charity.

My first thoughts about The Gingerbread City came about after visiting a Christmas fair in the US with my family. There were three giant gingerbread houses designed by bakers and I thought to myself how amazing it would be to have an entire city made of gingerbread and sweets designed by architects as a way to engage the public. A year later, the first Gingerbread City opened for Christmas 2016 in an empty shop front in South Kensington. Two years later we were invited to host the exhibition at the V&A and this year we will be occupying multiple rooms in Somerset House bringing the exhibition, gingerbread house making workshops and a gingerbread shop to life.

The masterplan of The Gingerbread City is cleverly crafted by Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design. Led by Hilary Satchwell and her team, they come up with strict rules around heights, density, character areas and innovation to showcase a healthy, green and sustainable place to show visitorshow cities can work better.

Each year there is a theme to the city and this year’s theme is around the future of transport. We will be showing how innovations in transport infrastructure and technology can help create healthier and greener cities for the future. We will show how various interdisciplinary collaborations are working on improving current transport methods and strategies. We would like to encourage all visitors to get more involved in the development of their communities and will include information on ways that people can do so.

Accompanying the exhibition will be family and adult gingerbread house making workshops with a twist! In line with the transport theme, people will be constructing and decorating train station gingerbread buildings. The workshops will include an introduction to innovation in transport today and again encourage all ages to be mindful of their transport choices and how it affects their world.

We encourage architects to take part as an opportunity to show their creativity to a curious public, have fun during the holiday season with their teams, and help the Museum of Architecture to raise funds that will go directly back into helping the industry.

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