Cookies in paradise! The 2019 Gingertown, DC theme was Venice, and the results were sweet! (All images courtesy of David M. Schwarz Architects, Inc.)

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Venice was! The iconic Italian city was commemorated in gingerbread as this year’s Gingertown, DC. The annual charity event was started in 2006 by David M. Schwarz Architects, and offers builders, engineers, contractors, and architects a chance to buy lots in the micro-campus for competitive gingerbread-building. Interest in the competition has grown so much over 13 years that the firm has had to find an offsite venue to present the results, and the competition has even spread to other cities, including Atlanta, Dallas, and Nashville.

Down in the jellybean canals of Gingertown Venice.

Individual lots in the site plan are purchased by DC-area architecture and building firms, who dispatch their finest to represent in gingerbread.

“It’s a way to give back to the community, but also an emphasis on local architecture and engineering projects,” said Hannah Tsimmerman, Marketing Manager at David M. Schwarz and unofficial “Mayor of Gingertown.” Past themes for the event have included conceptual spaces, like a university campus, imaginary locales, like last year’s fairytale Medieval village, and other real cities, like London and Las Vegas. This year, it was “Gingertown Venice.”

The rules are simple: all materials have to be edible, and no structural supports can be used on the inside of buildings. Gingertown also discourages participants from making their structures too tall, because the results remain on display anywhere from 1-3 weeks after the build, and bigger gingerbread buildings are prone to entropy.

David M. Schwarz Architects special ordered oversized gummy bears from Germany to accompany ginger cookie-people to populate the city.

Participants are asked to remain as faithful as possible to the aesthetics and density of the theme, but given open rein beyond the basic Gingertown guidelines.

“This really gives the engineers an opportunity to shine,” said Tsimmerman. “Especially when it comes to level of detail and structural integrity, gingerbread is a nontraditional medium.”

This year’s competitors ran the gamut within the theme, with some replicating actual landmarks of Venice, like St. Mark’s Basilica and Square and Ponti di Rialto, and others tackling spaces more open to interpretation, like bakeries and homes rendered in the Venetian style. Participants show up with a plan and have about 3 hours to build their entries, which then have to make it downstairs to take their place among the site. The grand prize winner was Walter P. Moore, who created “St. Mars Basilica” with Mars bars. Other prizes are awarded for innovative use of materials, judge’s choice, the best expression of theme, and of course, “Mayor’s Choice,” chosen by Tsimmerman.

St. Mars Basilica by Walter P. Moore took top prize at Gingertown, DC this year.

A view of St. Mars Basilica and (Chex) Square.

“A lot of firms this year wanted to bring in the element of climate change and water rising, so they put blue icing or jelly beans on the ground level of their buildings,” said Tsimmerman.

Gingertown raised a record amount this year on behalf of charities including the Wendt Center for Loss and Healing, Community of Hope, St. Elizabeths Hospital, Children’s National Hospital, and So Others Might Eat. Planning for next year’s theme, sponsor location, and participants begins around June at David M. Schwarz, so interested parties are encouraged to practice their icing techniques and research how to make a flying buttery-ess.

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Sarah Rose Sharp

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit —...