Architectural Jelly Banquet

A competition calling upon the world’s leading architects to design their own wobbly structures - London, July 2008

← Back More ↓

Architectural Jelly Banquet - London, July 2008

On the 4th July 2008 the Architectural Jelly Banquet curated by Bompas & Parr saw some of the world’s leading architects exhibit their tastiest designs as part of a competition on behalf of charity Article 25. The eventual winner was crowned “Ultimate Jelly Architect” by chef Heston Blumenthal and Maxwell Hutchinson.

The event, part of the London Festival of Architecture 2008 (LFA2008), saw over 1000 individually lit jellies in a surreal quivering display in UCL’s neo-classical Quad.  Leading academics provided expertise on how to heighten the experience through multi-sensory stimulation that included a soundtrack sampled from wobbling jellies, intense lighting and the delicious aroma of strawberries. At the designated signal, the exhibition turned into an all-out party.

So why food and architecture?

Professor Stephen Gage, UCL Bartlett School of Architecture and one of the judges of the competition, puts it well: “As babies, we first learn about our world by touching it and putting bits of it in our mouth. Part of our subconscious appreciation of shape may well be a dim memory of how it might feel in our mouth. Thus a dome is round and coolly satisfying, while a pointed building is like a sharp and dangerous knife. Jelly architecture returns architecture to the mouth, where we can once again taste it”

Jelly is an interesting place to examine this relationship between food and architecture due to its uniquely plastic and structural form.  Will Alsop, one of the shortlisted entrants to the competition commented 'I loved doing this. I had to mentally project myself into jelly to find the necessary inspiration. But once I had made the leap, I realised that there is a genuine relationship between jelly and architecture. It's to do with the spaces between buildings; the jellified urban fog of a city. It's about creating without destroying what's already there.”

The competition attracted more than 100 designs from around the world. Some designs were of existing buildings, such as Grimshaw’s Eden Project, while others were entirely new proposals. Some - like Austin & Mergold’s entry, which examined a “delicious history” of Russia - were more abstract, while other architects poked fun at their own designs. Lord Foster’s entry represents the notorious (and unintentionally) wobbly Millennium Bridge designed by the practice in 2000. Designs were judged on innovation, aesthetics and “wobble-factor” by a panel of experts including Sarah Gaventa, Director of CABE Space; Marcus Fairs, Editor-in-Chief of Dezeen and Peter Murray the Director of the LFA.

Lord Foster commented 'It has been a fun challenge for all of us. With this most wobbly of materials the association with the one-time Wobbly Bridge was irresistible. Like the design of the bridge itself - which pushed the boundaries of technology - designing with jelly is another structural first.’

At ten o’clock the winner of the title “Ultimate Jelly Architect” was announced by Maxwell Hutchinson, who was flanked by a troupe of jelly dancers. Tonkin Liu emerged victorious and as she was handed the ceremonial giant spoon by Heston Blumenthal jelly wrestlers dove into the wrestling pit to start the next phase of the evening.

Brave audience members donned paper suits to jelly wrestle each other in what was arguably the most tasteless event of the evening. Meanwhile UCL’s portico was transformed into a dance-floor and at eleven o’clock an all out food fight erupted. Let’s get ready to wobble!