Which modern architecture icon makes a better cookie, Eero Saarinen’s sleek TWA Terminal or Frank Lloyd Wright’s spiraling Guggenheim Museum? Visitors to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1988 could have compared the confectionary possibilities of these iconic buildings with the “Genuine Architectural Cookie Cutters,” created for the museum shop by architect and designer Kenneth Walker.
Back in 1988, upon the cutters’ release, Walker told the New York Times that it “wasn’t easy to find many buildings well-known to the general public that have good strong silhouettes.” In addition to the TWA Terminal and Guggenheim, he settled on William Van Alen’s Chrysler Building; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s Sears Tower; Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House; and Le Corbusier’s Chapel of Notre-Dame-du-Haut. Sure, that last one isn’t exactly a household name — perhaps it was a taste test for “genuine” architectural aficionados — but, like the others, it has a dough-friendly form.
I discovered the cookie cutters through the recently released Designing TWA: Eero Saarinen’s Airport Terminal in New York from Park Books and soon thereafter tracked some down, unused in their original box on eBay. While Walker recommended molasses cookies to the Times, as “they hold their shape,” I felt like a true review should use the sugar cookie recipe on the oversize red and white box (which also contains a recipe for Moravian spice cookies, for the more adventurous).
Not being much of a pastry chef — my last experience with sugar cookies was probably at least a decade ago — I’m probably not the best judge of what makes a good cookie cutter. The geometric flourishes of the Guggenheim did get a bit broken in the process, and it was hard to keep the sweeping TWA Terminal from snapping in two (luckily a crumbling fate avoided by the real building), but they overall turned out some structurally sound cookies, especially the underdog Chapel of Notre-Dame-du-Haut, thanks to Le Corbusier’s favoring of a heavy silhouette, and the tiered Sears Tower.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Walker hoped to make some state-based cookie cutters next, including San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid and Eureka’s Carson House for California. Alas, it doesn’t appear that they ever got mass-produced. MoMA doesn’t stock the 1980s cookie cutters anymore (perhaps no longer interested in selling a product featuring another museum), but they do seem to turn up fairly regularly on eBay.