GINGERBREAD HOUSES: IS KITSCHY HOLIDAY CRAFT ON CUSP OF BECOMING LEGIT FORM OF SERIOUS ARTISTIC EXPRESSION?

We are fans of architecture. Even more so we are fans of “architectural design.” However, kitsch and the aesthetics of  the contemporary commercial Xmas holiday experience, we are not fans of. But we were intrigued by a recent contest at our office to design and build a holiday-style gingerbread house. 

The construction and decorative materials were provided to participants (some would be architects, and some legit designers and artists) and included a large gingerbread cookie (of course) in the shape of a pre-fab parts template for the basic house structure, and baggies filled with jellybeans, licorice, gumdrops, pretzels, cookies, marshmellows, candy canes and myriad other sweets of dubious tastes, poor nutritional value and enough sugar to sustain a full-time local dental practice.The results were strangely compelling. We were entranced by the various houses, each of of which was given a name by its creators: “Beyonce’s Winter Getaway,” “The Lone Palm,” etc.

Upon seeing these architectural wonders, we were seized with the thought of these as art installations. We suddenly imagined life-size gingerbread houses, an entire village of them, set up in the main atrium gallery space of the MoMA in New York City.

It seemed like the kind of thing an artist like Jeff Koons might conceive. In our vision, he would have the parts made by various master bakers, candymakers and confectioners. The architecture would be formalized on blueprints using a Swiss architectural firm familiar with traditional home-building methods.

Or, we could imagine engaging the services of a “star-achitect” firm like Herzog and de Mueron or Shigeru Ban to re-imagine the gingerbread house from the ground up in a new contemporary way.  The design would be minimalist and employ non-traditional gingerbread-house materials like concrete, glass, steel and bamboo. Maybe it would be made with a shipping container or Airstream camper. The jellybeans could be at 100:1 scale. And even at life-size scale, you could still eat the gingerbread! It would be epic.

Back to the contest, our favorite entry was the aforementioned Beyonce’s Winter Getaway (pictured above). Sadly it did not take home first prize. But the contest was a revelation nonetheless.

We may be on the cusp of a new era in this craft that otherwise is confined to Xmas holiday “amusement.” There may be something more, a new trend lurking beneath the surface here. Gingerbread houses might be legit art after all. Out there, somewhere, savvy reader, is the Picasso of gingerbread houses.