Gingerbreadhouses and Architecture

In yesterday’s post, you read about the legendary gingerbread house in the fairytale Hansel and Gretel. But did you know that there is also a term called “Gingerbread architecture”? And no, unfortunately this doesn’t mean buildings actually made of gingerbread… The definition of gingerbread house architecture originates from the building style of the late 19th century in Haiti. The gingerbread movement began in 1881, with the construction of the Haitian National Palace. This building served as a model and set new standards of construction in the region. The majority of the gingerbread buildings in Haiti are located in Port-o-Prince and are planned by just three Haitian architects, who found inspiration during their studies in Paris. In 1895, Georges Baussan, Léon Mathon, and Joseph-Eugène Maximilien wanted to take advantage of the nascent architectural movement by adapting the contemporary style of French holiday homes to the tropical climate of Haiti.

The gingerbread houses are usually constructed out of wood, masonry, or stone and clay. Characteristics of this architectural style are vibrant patterns, flamboyant colors and richly ornamented balustrades. The houses were constructed with tall doors, high ceilings and large windows opening on vast galleries in order to take advantage of the prevailing winds. The gingerbread expression was adopted in the 1950s by American tourists, who compared the style to that of Victorian-era buildings in the US. As the houses are expensive to maintain, today many of them fall into disrepair by natural aging, although they withstood the the 2010 earthquake better than modern concrete buildings. In 2010, the Gingerbread Houses of Haiti were included on the World Monuments Watch.

If you want to stroll around in a city that is actually made out of gingerbread you have to visit the Museum of Architecture in London. Every year a group of architects, designers and engineers create an entire gingerbread city, with “…the aim […] to connect the public with architecture through an innovative display designed for the holiday season.” This year’s exhibition ‘Imagining the Future City’ is on from the 8th of December 2018 to the 6th of January 2019, if you happen to be in the vicinity. Enjoy without tasting!

About the authors

Anna Ritscher studied chemistry in Vienna and completed her PhD in Berlin, focusing on solid state chemistry. Currently, she is working at Biotop, of which she is a co-founder, developing modular lab spaces and citizen science projects.


https://www.thegingerbreadcity.com/ https://web.archive.org/web/20130320172232/http://www.wmf.org/sites/default/files/wmf_publication/WMF%20Haiti%20Mission%20Report.pdf https://www.wmf.org/project/gingerbread-neighborhood

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