Opinion

Please Stop: Designer Gingerbread Houses

In this edition of “Please Stop,” our occasional look at design trends that need to end, we take on architecture’s favorite sugary Instagram bait.

Gingerbread City at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Photo courtesy of Luke Hayes.

Let’s get this (ginger)bread! Around the holidays, our Instagram feeds reliably light up with a few seasonal gimmicks ready to turn simple joys into overwrought design exercises. There is, of course, the annual crop of designer Christmas trees, but this year, we’ve seen another trend begin to sprawl: the architectural gingerbread house.

One of this year’s most photographed examples, the Gingerbread City, was commissioned by the Museum of Architecture and is on view at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The museum gave a blue-chip roster of design talent no less a task than to “imagine the future city” as an edible metropolis. More than 60 structures by the likes of Foster + Partners and Zaha Hadid Architects make up a Shangri-La of sugar, spice, and urban futurism.

In a similar vein, Gingerbread architect (apparently a real job title) Beatriz Muller teamed up with StreetEasy to recreate New York City landmarks at the Williams-Sonoma store on Columbus Circle. Using more than 200 pounds of gingerbread (and an impressive 60 pounds of frosting), Muller’s hyper-detailed model even includes garbage bags lining the sidewalks.

Gingerbread replicas of NYC landmarks by Beatriz Muller. Photography courtesy of Business Wire.

We’ll be the first to admit that today’s political turbulence has us feeling escapist. But isn’t gingerbread construction best left to children (and their doting parents) fighting off yuletide tedium? By nature, gingerbread houses are flawed, ramshackle structures destined for digestion. World-class architects master planning Gingerbread cities for the Hansels and Gretels of Instagram only eats away at the enjoyment factor of homespun efforts. Do we really want to replace the imperfect fun of amateur confectionary construction with an impossible standard of structural ambition and heroic shareability? Also, is there anything an architect can’t overthink?

This isn’t to say that all expertly designed gingerbread houses are deserving of ire. Kate Wagner, the wunderkind architecture critic behind viral blog McMansion Hell, is hosting the McGingerbread Hell Contest, inviting her readers to create the “most nubtastic, gawdawful gingerbread McMansion” possible. It’s an out-of-the-box way for the design-minded to get their gingerbread fix while indulging in everyone’s favorite pastime: sneering at distasteful design. Finalists won’t be announced until January 5, but we expect they’ll put these master-planned Gingerbread communities to shame.

In the meantime, “Run, run as fast as you can.”

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