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Edible architectural models - Baking the Colour Palace

9 Nov 2021
By Samantha Tse

Edible architectural models have a long and illustrious history. From Florentine architect Antonio Manetti's 14th century vegetable models, to Zaha Hadid's 1983 celebratory cake of the Hong Kong Peak Leisure Club - food has been used in architectural model making for its ready availability, material properties, and as a way to inspire delight by involving all the senses in the experience of architecture.

For the opening of the Shaping Space - Architectural Models Revealed exhibition we asked Samantha Tse to create an edible version of Pricegore and Yinka Ilori's Colour Palace. Here she reflects on baking buildings, scale, and how she fulfilled a lifelong architectural ambition outside of her day job in finance.

I entered the Architecture Bake Off Competition on a complete whim after seeing a London Festival of Architecture article. I’ve always loved baking, but this is the first time I’ve entered a nationwide baking competition. This was 2020, during the height of the first lockdown where I then spent weeks wondering whether I’d even be able to find any flour to bake my creation…

The competition was open to the public for the first time and held virtually. We were asked to select one of five nominated buildings to recreate, with photos and videos of our masterpieces to be submitted by the end of the week. Having cleared the entire weekend to dedicate to the cause, I chose The Colour Palace. It’s a beautiful and stunning structure which stood out to me because of the lively colour palette and geometric pattern used.

Step one in my process was to find the dimensions of the real Colour Palace, which I could then scale down for my edible model and draw out my template - it’s an architectural competition after all! I used a ginger biscuit recipe for my frame and carefully cut out each shape before cementing together with caramel. I had to make sure that the cube frame was going to be strong enough to hold up all 28 individual panels. To replicate the thousands of hand-painted pieces of timber, I used boiled sweets to create a stained glass colour effect and piped lines of icing, ensuring the colours were the same as the real geometric pattern. Lastly, the entire structure was held up by a chocolate cake covered in red fondant to represent the cylinders.  

There were some amazing and creative bakes from the other participants in the competition and it was clear that everyone had put in a huge amount of effort, therefore I was all the more overjoyed to be voted as the overall winner.

Winning the competition and being asked to recreate the Colour Palace for the opening of Shaping Space - Architectural Models Revealed means a great deal to me because growing up, after being told I was too short to be an air hostess, I wanted to make architectural models, but later changed my mind after being told it would take me an extra 7 years to become an architect. So I feel proud that this achievement has managed to combined my passion for baking and make my younger self’s dream come true.

Shaping Space – Architectural Models Revealed is open at the Building Centre until 28 January 2022.

It is a collaboration between the V&A and the Building Centre, funded by the AHRC and supported by; 4D ModelshopAmalgam ModelmakingB.15 WorkshopDrawing MatterGHA GroupThe University of ManchesterMAP Laboratory (CNRS), and Model Platform


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