It sounds as if it was plucked directly from the pages of a children’s Christmas book, but in Gingertown, the streets really are paved in Cocoa Crispies, the lampposts are made of candy canes and the river bed has a beautiful topography of green and brown rock candy.
Since 2006, David M. Schwarz Architects has been creating a sweet spectacle called Gingertown, a whimsical land fashioned from gingerbread, licorice whips, gumdrops and icing.
“Our firm makes the master plan, which is different every year,” Katie Garrett, also known as “The Mayor” of Gingertown, told ABCNews.com. “We build the foam core base, pave the streets and put up the light posts. But all the buildings are then built by our architects and their families, engineers and people from other firms. Really, it’s all our friends in the industry.”
This year’s Gingertown is constructed like a university campus.
“We’ve never done a university and thought that would really be a lot of fun. It was a new type that would be fun to master plan,” Garrett said. “We have Baby Ruth baseball field with an outdoor hockey field for winter time, we have the Peppermint Patty Performing Arts Center, Animal Cracker fraternity house, Cadbury Egghead Library and the Good ‘n Plenty dining hall.”
But that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. There are also multiple Starburst coffee shops, a Jawbreakers court house, and of course, the Life Savers Hospital which comes equipped with its own helipad.
Last year’s Gingertown was an Elf Vegas theme.
“It’s our big event every year. The whole office gets into it,” Garrett said. “You see people that we work with professionally coming in and getting covered in frosting and coming up with all these creative things. It’s interesting how people choose to build the buildings. Starburst for teeny tiny bricks, each team brings a different element to the table in terms of how they choose to mix the colors and everything.”
The Washington, DC-based architecture firm came up with the idea to start the Gingertown construction as a way to “contribute to the DC community in a way that brought together the architecture community.”
Garrett explained everyone that works in the firm lives in the DC area, but as a firm they do a lot of work nationally, so they really wanted to create a project that brought them closer as a team while giving back to their own community.
This year’s university-themed Gingertown will be available to view on Connecticut Avenue, in the heart of the nation’s capital, until November 30th. On Friday, the buildings will be disassembled and donated, along with all cash contributions, to DC-based charities including the Children’s National Medical Center, So Others Might Eat, and Saint Elizabeth’s hospital.
The entire construction was completed Monday night in three to four hours.
“It was very sugary mass chaos going on. There’s always a mad dash for the frosting and building materials,” Garrett explained. “The licorice goes quickly because they can be great trim pieces, or people make letters out of them.
“We have hundreds of pounds of candy. One of my orders alone was 100 pounds. I know we had a 10 pound bag of gum drops. We probably easily had 10 pounds of M&M’s. We had these huge 5 gallon buckets of frosting. The royal icing is the glue that holds the building together like mortar, and the butter cream is for decoration.”
When asked how Garrett could possibly keep the Gingertown builders from eating all the candy, she said, “A lot of hand smacking. They’re actually pretty good at this point. The building materials are precious, so one piece you get to eat may one piece you don’t get to build.”
The best part about the whole project, Garret said, is the smells.
“It smells like cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar. It smells like Christmas. It smells like the holidays. It’s infectious. It’s almost intoxicating in a sweet candy way.”