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While many Americans will be firing up their Fourth of July barbecues, scores of Londoners will be eyeing architectural replicas made of jelly.
Foster + Partners, William Alsop and Rogers Stirk Harbour are among the 10 finalists vying for the Architectural Jelly Design Competition crown that will be bestowed July 4 for all to see at the University College London Quad. The winning entry will have to outdo the rest of the pack for innovation, aesthetics and wobble factor.
This story first appeared in the June 27, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Lord Norman Foster took care of the task at hand personally and designed a jellied version of The Millennium Bridge, better known by Londoners as The Wobbly Bridge that he created across the Thames in 2000. The nickname took hold after the $36 million bridge, central London’s first new river crossing for more than a century, was so shaky that it had to be temporarily closed and retooled with an additional $10 million investment. In terms of sturdiness for gelatin-based designs, a bridge is generally not the first idea that comes to mind, but the competition’s sponsor, Bompas & Parr, embraced the concept wholeheartedly, even allowing for added wobble in the jelly used.
Sam Bompas and his business partner Harry Parr, who used to work in architecture, anticipated such complexity. “We knew what we were getting ourselves in for. I think these architects really understand some of the magical things you can do with jelly,” Bompas said.
Another finalist, Austin + Mergold, the only American submission, tackled Russian history, more specifically how its state symbol morphed from the imperial eagle into the Soviet star. The idea was developed by two Cornell University professors, Jason Austin and Aleksandr Mergold, who enclosed a 13-page document illustrating their thinking. Two types of jellies were required to distinguish the old melding with the new.
Laughable as all this may seem, the showdown is meant to explore relationships between food and architecture, and is part of the London Festival of Architecture, which runs through July 20. In addition, jelly molds and equipment will be auctioned on behalf of Article 25, a charity that provides building expertise to aid agencies, nongovernmental organizations and areas affected by disaster, poverty or need.
For next month’s Jelly Banquet and judging, Bompas & Parr has recruited a modern dance troupe to show off their agility carrying 3-foot spoons amid the quad’s neoclassical architecture. On Wednesday, company staffers were holed up in an anechoic chamber recording the oscillation of various types of jellies that will then be played over the event’s sound system. The surroundings will also be infused with strawberry-scented air.
Lining up the architects took a lot of legwork. Bompas said, “There were a lot of phone calls. Architects like to give the impression that they are working on a lot of glamorous projects, but there is a lot of drudgery. Someone doesn’t go into architecture to spend hours in meetings trying to convince clients why they should do a particular project or sitting in front of a computer screen finessing a design. So this was fun.”