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Gingerbread Build-Off

Amazing gingerbread houses pay tribute to Hogwarts, London Bridge — and demolished Foley's building

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Slideshow
7 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Grand prix de show - Kirksey London Tower Bridge
Comprehensive details, large scale and a cantilever draw bridge all helped Kirksey's London Tower Bridge earn Grand Prix de Show.  Photo courtesy of AIA Houston
3 AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 1st Runner Up _ Art Institute with Falling Water
Students from the Art Institute of Houston earned second place with this faithful recreation of Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater.  Photo courtesy of AIA Houston
12 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Best Architecture Icon _PDR with Jingle Bell Demo - Foley's
A team from PDR won Best Architectural Icon with a whimsical take on the downtown Foley's demolition. Photo courtesy of AIA Houston
2 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 2nd Runner Up Gensler -Hogwarts Christmas
Gensler earned third place for this Hogwarts Christmas. Photo courtesy of AIA Houston
13 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Best Non-Traditional _ Eggersman with Kitchen
Kitchen design firm Eggersman earned Best Non-Traditional for an inside-out take on a gingerbread house.  Photo courtesy of AIA Houston
14 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Best Traditional_PDR with The Classic
The prize for Best Traditional went to PDR with The Classic, which was inspired by a team member's family's house in West Texas.  Photo courtesy of AIA Houston
Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Despicable Me
The crowd chose Seeberger Architecture's take on Despicable Me as its favorite.  Photo courtesy of AIA Houston
10 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Paige Sutherland Paige Gingertects Blizzard of Oz
Paige Sutherland Paige Gingertects "Blizzard of Oz" took home the award for Most Creative Use of Materials. Photo courtesy of AIA Houston
5 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Snoopy
This Snoppy doghouse was a crowd favorite, even if it didn't take home any hardware.  Photo courtesy of AIA Houston
4 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Baking Bad
Note the gingerbread Walt in tighty-whities produced by team "Baking Bad."  Photo courtesy of AIA Houston
9 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Tallest Structure PBK with Kung Fu Candy Crushers
At over 50 inches tall, PBK's Japanese pagoda was the tallest structure of the day.  Photo courtesy of AIA Houston
1 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Rapunzel's castle
Rapunzel's castle is 100 percent edible, and the team committed to its theme.  Photo courtesy of AIA Houston
7 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Grand prix de show - Kirksey London Tower Bridge
3 AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 1st Runner Up _ Art Institute with Falling Water
12 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Best Architecture Icon _PDR with Jingle Bell Demo - Foley's
2 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 2nd Runner Up Gensler -Hogwarts Christmas
13 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Best Non-Traditional _ Eggersman with Kitchen
14 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Best Traditional_PDR with The Classic
Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Despicable Me
10 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Paige Sutherland Paige Gingertects Blizzard of Oz
5 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Snoopy
4 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Baking Bad
9 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Tallest Structure PBK with Kung Fu Candy Crushers
1 Annual AIA Gingerbread build-off December 2013 Rapunzel's castle

At the fifth annual AIA Gingerbread Build-Off, 30 teams from across the city competed to build the most stunning, over-the-top gingerbread-based creations. The teams had five hours to assemble the creations, and all of the building, frosting and decorating had to be done on-site. Despite temperatures in the 40s and a fierce wind at downtown's Hermann Square Park on Saturday that toppled a couple of entries, most of the teams displayed high-quality, highly creative work. 

 Teams ran the gamut in terms of experience, with professional architectural firms competing against student groups and even a group of neuroscientists. 

A three-judge panel that included an architect, an engineer and a food writer (aka, me) evaluated each of the entries for a variety of awards including Grand Prix de Show, Best Architectural Icon and Most Creative Use of Materials. Teams ran the gamut in terms of experience, with professional architectural firms competing against student groups and even a group of neuroscientists. Entries needed to be at least 80 percent edible and assembled entirely on site. 

Unofficially, Houston architecture icons seemed to be the theme of the day with three different versions of the Williams Tower and its corresponding Waterwall, the Astrodome and the recently-demolished Foley's on Main Street all making an appearance. Teams also turned to pop culture for inspiration with Harry Potter's Hogwarts, The Wizard of Oz, Breaking Bad and Despicable Me all getting gingerbread treatment. 

As a first time visitor, I was struck by a couple of things. First, Rice Krispie treats are a surprisingly important structural element in building large-scale gingerbread houses. Second, it seems that almost every team had a different candy component for water (jello, gummy bear, almond bark, etc.)

In the end, architecture firm Kirksey took the top prize for their London Tower Bridge with a working cantilever drawbridge and boat below. A student-group from the Art Institute of Houston upset several pro teams for second with the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, "Gingerbread Fallingwater." Gensler placed third with a replication of Hogwarts Castle. The crowd selected the Despicable Me house as its favorite. 

All entries are currently on display at the Architecture Center of Houston through Friday. 

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