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Boston architects build climate-ready gingerbread houses in annual competition


'Tis the season to better understand climate change. Well, that is what architects in Boston decided, anyway. For their annual gingerbread competition, they chose climate-ready Boston for their theme. WBUR's Barbara Moran took a look at their gingerbread creations.

BARBARA MORAN, BYLINE: What happens when you give a lot of sugar to a bunch of architects and tell them to solve climate change? Well, you get everything from a gingerbread brownstone perched on chocolate stilts to a frosted duck boat. That's a boat that can travel on land and water, rescuing Boston landmarks on its roof.

MAIA ERSLEV: We have everything from, like, silly, creative ones, such as the duck boat over there, with city landmarks kind of toppling off it, to more realistic ones.

MORAN: Maia Erslev is the gallery manager at the Boston Society for Architecture and running this exhibition.

ERSLEV: It's been great to see how many different iterations of solar panels. There's been lots of creativity there.

MORAN: Chocolate solar panels, pretzel solar panels - even some made of cereal. One multifamily solar-paneled gingerbread house has a wall cutaway so you can see the holiday scene inside.

ERSLEV: They have a sectioned view of one of the triple-deckers, with a happy family celebrating Hanukkah on one floor and Christmas on another.

MORAN: (Laughter) Perfect.

ERSLEV: Yeah, I love that touch.

MORAN: The Boston Society for Architecture, or BSA, has run the contest/fundraiser for 11 years. This is the first time they've had a climate theme.

ANDREA LOVE: The BSA has been particularly focused in the last few years really around climate and equity as the two kind of big systemic problems that architects need to face.

MORAN: Andrea Love is president of the BSA.

LOVE: There are a lot of strategies, particularly around resiliency and climate change, that buildings - whether they're gingerbread or actual buildings - have to kind of deal with those challenges. And so I think that the structures are highlighting the strategies that we have and approaches that we have.

MORAN: The gingerbreads do hit all the climate-ready talking points, like bike-friendly roads, green roofs and living shorelines. There's even a park, with marsh grass made of shredded wheat. Almost everything is edible, as all climate intervention should be - even the duck boat.

ERSLEV: It is a great likeness to the Boston duck boat. And atop it, there are all of these Boston icons - the John Hancock, Prudential Center, State House - presumably being saved by the duck boat from the rising tides.

MORAN: But it's hard to secure a building to a boat, and the Custom House Tower has tumbled into the sugary sea. The rod made out of pretzels supporting it has cracked, crumbling, perhaps, beneath the existential weight of climate change.

Oh, dear.

ERSLEV: Yeah. Hopefully the designers can come and reconstruct it a bit.

MORAN: Oh, OK. I guess pretzel rebar is not going to save us (laughter).

ERSLEV: Apparently not. That's not the answer.

MORAN: Even if pretzel rebar and chocolate solar panels aren't the answer to climate change - at least not the whole answer - the exhibit highlights a lot of hopeful adaptations.

ERSLEV: I think climate change is often kind of a scary topic for many people, but I think that this theme and the way that the submitters kind of took it and flipped it on its head has turned it into more of a hopeful and playful interpretations of that. So that's really great.

MORAN: Looking around at all the gummy turtles swimming in Jell-O oceans, you can't help but feel - if there are this many creative people thinking about climate change, the world is going to be OK. For NPR News, I'm Barbara Moran in Boston.


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