UHA Architects Liquorice Library London UK Gingerbread City 2022

Winners at Gingerbread City 2022

05th January 2023
Joseph R. Goodwin and Lizzie Sharp
4 minutes

We're delighted to have been chosen by the public as the winners of the Continental Zone at this year's Gingerbread City.

After five weeks of frenzied voting we came out on top against some stiff competition from neighbouring plots designed by Foster + Partners, BDP, House of Kin and Chapman Taylor. We always look forward to the creative, technical and ethical challenges posed by the pressing themes selected by the Museum of Architecture. And we always underestimate the amount of time, energy and asbestos fingers required.

Now that the burns have healed and the flour has settled, we're happy to share a look back at the 200 combined hours of sketching, modelling, debating, rolling, cutting, baking, bleeding, gluing, and eating that went into our Liquorice Library.

What did we build?
A waterfront library and cafe with a low carbon diet, set in a landscape of community gardens, made entirely out of liquorice and charcoal-infused gingerbread.

Why did we choose the Continental Zone?
Founded by a liquorice loving Dane, we jumped at the opportunity to trade GRC for liquorice and step out of Archicad and into the kitchen.
With the majority of our projects falling in tropical and arid climates, we wanted to take on the challenge posed by designing for extreme seasonal variation; something that our Budapest-based team is only too familiar with.

Is it green?
With this year's theme highlighting the importance of sustainability, we designed using locally sourced natural materials making for low upfront carbon. The use of only one light fitting in our shallow, layered plan also gives us high performance with low operational carbon. With gummy bear comfort in mind, our layers of timber bookshelves and continuous vertical louvres provide protection from the baking heat and harmful UV rays of summer, or 180°C fan assisted ovens.

Why is it black?
1 Liquorice is black (mostly)
2 Charred timber is efficient, durable, and environmentally considerate, so we added charcoal powder to the gingerbread dough
3 We wanted the building to be a backdrop to highlight the sugar work, colourful liquorice landscape and hand-cut books

Top five facts

1553 books made from liquorice allsorts
1.4kg charcoal-infused gingerbread
84 Haribo Goldbear visitors
120 liquorice pavers made from Salty Witches
26 Icelandic Sambó Reykt Te ball trees

Team members
Gianluca Malvestio
Jimena Arena
Joseph R. Goodwin
Lizzie Sharp
Ricardo Mateu

Read on for our baker's log or visit the Liquorice Library project page to see the final bake.

The First Meeting

The team gathered to digest the brief

The Second Meeting

A frantic session of sketching

The first test bakes

To get that charred timber look we needed to experiment with the recipe. Adding food colouring resulted in a greeny-brown, but activated charcoal powder gives a rich, flat black.

The Third Meeting

After the 3D model was approved, we built a 1:1 cardboard model to get a true sense of scale.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen

It turned out that too much charcoal powder weakened the dough over time, so testing continued...

Keeping things efficient

Several factors limited the size of dough that could be rolled: the size of the baking trays, the length of the rolling pin, but ultimately the size of the oven. Each sheet of dough was rolled to around 220 x 290 mm to fit within the trays, so we worked out the most efficient arrangement to make the most of each and every batch.

Vantablack, we're coming for you

With the optimum amount of charcoal powder calculated, the mega bake commenced.

In pursuit of louvres

Great gingerbread is nothing without great glazing, but our desire for louvred façades meant rejecting the traditional method of melting boiled sweets within biscuit boundaries. Several tests and one burn later, we had foolproof frameless solution.

Everything falling into place

With the slabs baked, the louvres and glazing installed, and the gardens pruned, it was time for the final push

Back at the bar

After fixing the 1,553 books (chopped and assembled by Jimena from 6 boxes of liquorice allsorts) the gloss black base gave us some serious Interstellar-inspired infinite bookshelves. It was then on to installing the tables, chairs, sofas, trees, and paving stones ready for the arrival of any gummy bears that survived their journey from bag to slab.

Gingerbread City Installation

The Liquorice Library was transported and installed safely into the Continental Zone at the Gingerbread City exhibition in Belgravia.

Sweet Relief

Some of the team made it to the private view, where they had the chance to admire the complete masterplan and, more importantly, sniff out the competition and get inspiration for our next bake.

Visit the Liquorice Library project page

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