Here in the dry zone, water and greenery are in scarce supply. The heat of the sun is both a source of energy and a stress factor that has to be shaded and filtered in order to survive. Water is essential for life and so these climates are tricky when trying to build thriving communities of people, animals, and plants.

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Candy Cane Ksar

Residential housing scheme
Michaelis Boyd

Entering through the Candy Cane archway, the gingerbread residents inhabit a labyrinth style community of earthen buildings, with multiple storeys interlinked by slides, staircases and walled passageways. Tightly packed arched dwellings crowd together – some are modest, others have facades elaborately iced with North African style motifs. These are flanked by taller residences built into defensive walls, which are reinforced by towering fruit pastel stacked minarets at each of the four corners. Inspired by the ancient city of Tataouine and the dwellings of Berber populations, the little ginger houses are designed for coolness and protection from the strong sugary sun. At the centre sits the local source of fruit pastels – if you look closely, you’ll see the irrigation routes from the well running through the courtyard to fuel the community dwellings. Mimicking traditional pre-Saharan construction techniques, multiple gingerbread sheets are tightly packed together with chocolate glue to resemble rammed earth. Rough or crumbling textures are left exposed, and a coating of brown sugar icing renders the roofs to create an organic curved effect. Natural earth and desert tones form the basis of the structure, but the façades are elaborately decorated with piped icing and there are references to the rich history of textiles found in desert communities – look out for printed rice paper rugs, fizzy rainbow flag bunting. Jellybean cacti, pepper pigs and popcorn sheep add playful pops of colour and surprise throughout.

We are architects and designers based in London and New York. We create spaces that are emotive, meaningful and thoughtful. Nature is the starting point for every project; spaces that begin with light, form and flow. Fusing nature with architecture leads us in creativity but also in function, helping us craft forward-thinking spaces that tread lightly. Our work spans five continents and ranges from the restoration of heritage buildings and historic renovations to original new build properties, luxury hotels and resorts and private members’ clubs.


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Cherry Kasbah

Desert Fort

Historic building specialist, Purcell went all out to save this Unesco landmark, retrofitting the buildings inside and returning it to its former glory, using traditional building techniques of fudge blocks, m&m rubble and demerara sand. The fort is a pioneer in the adaption of historic buildings to suit today’s modern standards whilst offering exceptional sustainability credentials.The fort shows the narrative of the different eras it was built – the dough era, the burnt era and evidence of where it survived the great oven fire of 1666.

We are architects, heritage consultants and master planners. Our designs stem from a deep understanding of our shared heritage and respond to the qualities of each place. We work to improve the lives of those who use our buildings, and the long-term sustainability of each.


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‘Dessert’ Oasis

Residental housing scheme
Rodić Davidson Architects

This residential scheme is organised around a central groundwater spring at the masterplan’s core, where the inhabitants of the community have developed a method to incorporate water into their village and homes. Due to the natural scarcity of the resource in the environmental context, the presence of water takes authority in the scheme. Each dwelling has been organised in reference to the grid, making water accessible to every resident. Two community buildings envelope themselves around the spring, creating a central courtyard which is used for congregation and the main area for growth. This way of living has resulted in a self-sustainable livelihood for the inhabitants.The central buildings feature arched walkways to enhance the openness of the communal space as well as to cover the streams. The overall scheme draws inspiration from traditional desert architecture whilst incorporating modern motifs. Rodić Davidson Architects were intrigued by the concept of having a festive gingerbread house in an unfamiliar setting, contrasting the typical snowy scenes and icy themes with a desert oasis.

Rodić Davidson Architects is an architecture, design and interiors practice based in London. The firm specialises in design-led restorations of historic buildings and highly crafted new builds in urban and rural areas with heritage significance, and in protected areas of outstanding natural beauty. Our work has gained international recognition for its context-sensitive architecture and sustainability.


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Dessert Springs

The Manser Practice

A modern take on a traditional riad home with a semi-enclosed courtyard and pool.

Team of 3 who won the practice internal design competition to take part – Greg, Alice and Antonio!


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Eco One

Community resource centre
Ecologic Architects

A community resource centre to learn about saving resources such as water, building materials and energy. The world is running out of building materials, piling up waste and creating pollution. What we need is a moral leadership based on equity and circular economy to the construction industry. Desert climates are the extreme of all landscapes. They exist in all climatic forms – from the coldest to the hottest. They could become our future if we do not curb the global temperature rise. This building shows what is possible by working with scarce resources and include rammed earth, jali brick work (hit and miss brick work) and biophilic forms.

Sumita is an award winning architect, teacher and writer with her design practice focussed on sustainable design, Ecologic Architects. Sumita founded Architects For Change, the Equality forum at RIBA. Sumita has served at the RIBA for over 25 years. Sumita is a trustee of four built environment charities. She has taught architecture for over 25 years. Sumita is the author of many publications on architecture.Sumita received an OBE for services to architecture.

Twitter: @autotelic_arch

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Fruit Loop Farm

Farm, sheltered structure and fields
Outerspace UK

We are creating a sustainable farm through a combination of traditional middle eastern architectural design & a wadi landscape to harness scarce rainfall.The goal is to ‘Close the loop’ to create a farm where nothing is wasted. With climate change and droughts intensifying, efficient resource use is more vital than ever.The fruit loop circular approach adopts a permaculture philosophy; with the land for low input high impact agriculture through ‘whole system’ thinking. For instance;- The buildings are constructing from local materials which uses soil, hay and sand.- Biowaste is fed back into fields as fertiliser- The farm taps into a wadi to irrigate the fields via a drip system- Attenuation tanks capture water from the wadi and a grey water system from the barn to provide water when the wadi runs dry We have chosen this climate zone as we feel it is important to keep striving to demonstrate the importance of water conservation, use, and ensuring zero waste in our changing climate with hotter and colder extremes and access to natural resources become scarce.

Outerspace are award-winning Landscape Architects, Urban Designers and Community Enablers based in London.At the heart of everything we do is the promotion of human-nature. Our innovative approach focuses on the unique relationship between people and the natural environment resulting in well-used spaces which are highly sustainable.


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Hotel Baklifornia

Hotel oasis, carefully constructed into
the site of a historic riad dwelling

MAAPS imagined coming across a derelict riad and turning it into a sustainable oasis for future generations for their Hotel Baklifornia.The ground floor contains semi-transparent, inside-outside spaces for community interaction around the traditional riad centre pool area. Cooling effects inspired by traditional architectural features include latticework screens and on the upper levels open air gathering spots allow heat to escape and xerophytic vegetation thrives in the heat.The elevated pods represent different approaches to luxurious relaxation and mentally holistic lifestyles. There are spaces for families to relax together, small activity groups like yoga and studio spaces for home-working options. Hotel Baklifornia comprehensively represents a sustainable approach to a warmer future. MAAPS wanted to explore the idea of a hotel in an arid zone. Global warming represents the greatest inevitable threat to us all, and architecture should actively become part of humanity’s solutions to this crisis. Hotels represent a superlative option for dealing with population density in exciting ways. Like urban residential blocks, they allow individuals and groups to craft ideal living areas. Space is dexterously utilised and carbon cost is lowered.

MAAPS Design & Architecture is an architectural, interior and furniture design studio. Our expertise is the crafted reimagining of existing architectural and interior spaces. The designs and the projects we deliver evolve from our understanding of a space’s emotional character, its hidden potential and our client’s desired interaction with it.


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Lemon Meringue Pie-Lace

A riad-style palace
Whittam Cox Architects

A modern take on a Riad style Palace, which creates a sense of hierarchy of spaces, staggered across a multi-level floor plan. Whittam Cox Architects have undertaken the sustainable practice of adaptive reuse, by retrofitting an old traditional building, instead of knocking it down and eradicating the significance of its history and character. Repurposed as a community arts centre, the permeability of space is aided by the playful balance of accessibility and visibility, using arches and internal walkways to guide the visitors on a journey through the space. This building was previously a heritage asset; however, it has now become a new cultural beacon in the desert. As the global climate continues to change, more of the planet is at risk of transitioning into desert due to unstable climate zones and patterns. Whittam Cox Architects wanted to explore the ways in which traditional design principles associated with the desert climate, such as internal courtyards, fountains and natural ventilation can be manipulated and reimagined as a modern adaptation to this impending change.

Established for 50 years Whiitam Cox Architects have studios in London, Chesterfield and Leeds. To us, design is about place, form, function and human experience. As such, we strive to deliver design services in a structured, considered and robust way whilst taking our social and environmental responsibilities very seriously. Our design philosophy revolves around contextual architecture which seeks to blend user experience and functionality with building aesthetic, creating places that balance form with function. Always our objective is to deliver design services which result in buildings and environments which are thoughtful, considered, aspirational, beautiful, and respond to their place and the needs of the people who will use and occupy them.


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Mousseum of Macaroons

Modern Museum
vPPR Architects

Mousseum of Macaroons explores the concepts of temporality and movement through contemporary interventions in the desert. Parting from a grid, each module protrudes from the earth exploring the relationship between landscape and intervention, solid and void, permanent and ephemeral. Due to climate change and rising temperature, this museum proposes to host living organisms at risk, questioning the boundaries of a traditional museum and creating a space for inhabitation and dialogue. Through a series of follies and intricate moments, the building becomes an interactive space in an always changing landscape through a nomadic architecture.

vPPR Architects was set up in 2009 by Tatiana von Preussen, Catherine Pease and Jessica Reynolds, and is an award-winning practice known for bold designs that bring clarity to complex sites, with a focus on community and sustainability. We design architecture that finds opportunities in constraints, responding with elegant yet striking forms that playfully negotiate between private and communal spaces, history and the future.


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Orange Oasis

A crunchy desertic landscape
Dantas Reche

Dantas Reche have built a topography around an oasis that allowed for different zones to be created. They have played with simulating a self sufficient landscape that included energy generation zone, made out of mint turbines and sugary solar panels, the allotment area filled with jellies to feed the nomads and some weaved and laced structures offering shelter. The desert represents the opposite of Christmas as we know it. Scarcity, struggle and drought, as opposed to what we expect from a Christmas Gingerbread City of abundance and joy.

That dichotomy made them rethink Christmas and elucubrate how would a “desertic” Christmas look. Less consumption and excess for sure! Due to lack of time, the crumbling of the biscuit was of great help. The challenge was then to glue candies and pipe the buttercream onto such sandy surface.
The fizzy belts were so helpful, they can be seen stripped apart or kept in their original form. The strawberry lace was also great. At the end of the day, lines are all we need!

I am Renata Dantas. I took the crazylicious challenge of doing the GBC in one week, having 2 kids on board. What I didn’t expect was that we all got a flu during this week! Bitter sweet.
I feel the need to thank my beloved daughter and niece for brainstorming and testing some structures and solutions with me.

My dad was also on board discussing the brief and topping up my candy supply (thanks pai!).
And thanks to some dear friends around the world who gave some time over the phone to discuss buttercream, fondant and nozzles(Marcela Luz/Brazil), landscape zoning and aesthetic (Melike Altinisik/Turkey) and general model making (Antonio de Campos/Germany).


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Parfait Palmeraie

Candy Coloured Superadobe Domes
Aterre Studio

Parfait Palmeraie is an eco community oasis set within the desert. Built along the traditional lines of a kasbah, candy coloured superadobe domes are set behind a fortified wall that invites weary travellers into the abundant palm grove oasis. A sanctuary that provides respite from the harsh climate. Using desert permaculture techniques Parfait Palmeraie recycles all its grey water to feed the palm trees, vegetable gardens and pond. It is later filtered and recycled for ongoing use. Water is also collected from the night dew that collects on top of the domes to create a self-sufficient planet conscious desert community.The desert is a sensuous sculptural landscape and naturally lends itself to traditional construction techniques and organic shapes inspired by biomimicry and the very surrounding environment. Added to this the potential to further harness traditional knowledge seen in courtyard gardens, palmeraie desert planting, kasbahs, natural oases, adobe and rammed earth structures – complemented by traditional water collecting methods, combined with modern technology, provides new and exciting opportunities to build sustainable, self sufficient, low impact, satellite communities throughout the desert.

We are a Biophilic Design Studio specialising in planet conscious living design & architecture, interior & exterior plantscapes and regenerative urban planting to create Eco Cities of the future. A world envisioned in harmony with the planet that sustains us and which harnesses future technology to do so.


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POoR Playground

POor Collective

The POoR Playground is an incidental playspace that is influenced by landscape designer Roberto Marx and Dutch architect Aldo Van Eyck. Across the city, there is a lack of spaces for young people. POoR Playground imagines a neglected space as a vibrant and energetic zone of youth interaction. A collection of dynamic forms, the POoR Playground is a contemporary take on play in gingerbread form. The desert climate zone was chosen because over the last decade youth services have dried up.

We are a social enterprise that focuses on the development of communities through the elevation of young people. POoR sees the power of the younger generation and seeks to get young voices heard.


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Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert

A multi-generational courtyard dwelling
Ashton Architecture

Based loosely on a courtyard riad, and the typically Greek concrete framed multi-generational housing projects, Priscilla Queen of the Dessert provides a framework structure for people to occupy and embellish to reflect their own personalities. The design is influenced by the arid landscape of the dessert, and the blank canvas it provides for the residents to define themselves. The dessert can be a source of comfort and peace with its vastness, and a refuge for humans, plants and animals.The shifting landscape inspired the need for a building which is strong, solid and can endure the conditions of the dessert. The undulating outer wall provides security, support and allows shards of light to penetrate into the residential spaces. Central to the design is a seasonal internal courtyard which houses the fabulous Christmas tree. Other times of the year, it is the ‘main stage’ where residents can unleash their personality!

At Ashton Architecture, we believe in making fun, beautiful and better spaces in which to live. We care about the big picture and the small picture equally. We are conscious of our obligation to reduce waste and our responsibility to create sustainable environments.


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Santa’s Wagon Wheel Workshop

A solar and wind based present factory

Echoing Arup’s commitment to building sustainable, resilient communities, they have built Santa’s Wagon Wheel Workshop. This Sustainable energy farm utilises the arid terrain to gift the local communities with sustainable energy over the festive season.Arup wanted to highlight the importance of utilising innovative technologies and thoughtful design to solve devastating problems that have been exasperated by climate change and are now routinely faced by communities in these areas. Imagining a world where Santa’s workshop, once in the ice, is now only surrounded by sand, his determination to deliver presents to children worldwide has lead him to resort to extreme measures. The once reliable reindeers now replaced with camels, the wood burning fire replaced with solar farms and his jolly red suit with a speedo. Not often associated with an arid climate, the Arup team hopes that the gingerbread and desert juxtaposition will encourage people to think about conserving their resources. An innovative approach to energy and a dystopian scene is designed to inspire thoughts of our future through a satirical scene.

Arup Architecture – a collective of building and biscuit enthusiasts! Our diverse team is excited to put their own twist on a fun and meaningful project.


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The Berber Biscuit Bazaar

Chiddingfold Creatives

Some abandoned ancient ruins at the back of the site have been redeveloped into a shaded pleasure garden around the old well. Chiddingfold Creatives renovated the old colonnade and landscaped it with sustainable desert planting to create a relaxing escape from the hubub of the bazaar. It’s the perfect observation point for the activity below.

There is an entertainment space to provide lots of shade from the overhangs and light spilling from the fanned out walls, all dotted with holes to maximise cooling air flow. Infront of these are the market stalls around a cooling pool. In this time of climate change the threat of water shortages and unnecessary power consumption are of particular concern. Chiddingfold Creatives wanted to demonstrate how buildings can be designed to minimise solar heat gain and maximise use of shade and cooling breezes to keep cool. Likewise drought tolerant planting with plenty of trees can provide a pleasurable shopping and entertainment space more akin to an oasis than a desert.

Chiddingfold Creatives is a practice of two, keen on living a sustainable life and minimising impact on the environment. Their model maker works in the conservation department of a London museum and their landscaper is a gardener and activist.

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The Marshmallow Mine

Market and mine
Urban Mesh

Under the scorching sun, the people of the dry island of Gingerbread City dug into the mountains to create cool shelters. Their work was more than rewarded by finding out that the rocks were full of the valuable commodity of Marshmallow. Usually imported from far away they can now extract, sell, and consume marshmallows locally. The Marshmallow market has grown around the mine and is now a top destination for the inhabitants of all the islands of Gingerbread City. Urban Mesh chose the dry climate as they liked the challenge of creating a Gingerbread themed model, usually associated with winter and snow, in the desert.

We are an award-winning architecture studio based in Smithfield EC1. We have built a wealth of experience, acting for property and portfolio holders in Central London across all sectors – ranging from residential to commercial, restaurants and cafes to medical practices and offices. With each new project the practice embraces the future and celebrates the past


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The Productive Land

Nomadic camps and a marketplace
Embed Collective

The Productive Land is a prototype nomadic community that focuses solely on energy production through making the best use of its climate. It is part of a system of camps, each one focusing on different uses like celebration and education. Learning from the rituals of Kumbh Mela, one of the largest pilgrimages in Hinduism, the camp focuses on creating new rituals focused on self-sustaining productive landscapes: fresh water from sea water desalination, structures that take advantage of condensation by collecting water from the air. Whilst they camp, solar-powered devices charge They move from one camp to another bringing their lightweight tents to the next camp but also the knowledge and resources they gained from the previous camp so promoting a circular economy. In the midst of scarcity, dry climate zones provide the greatest opportunity for climate resilient and climate responsive design. Embed Collective are excited to speculate on the potential of integrated cities and systems in increasingly dry climates, taking large inspiration from nomadic communities who have flourished through the adaptation of themselves and also of their living conditions. They find the dichotomy of solar energy – in how we are reliant on it yet harshly impacted by it – an extremely interesting challenge to design with.

Embed Collective is a collective of recent graduates from the London School of Architecture, comprising Jane Tocilina-Rubert, Alexandra Totoianu, Dominika Pilch, Jonathan Boon, Adara Wicaksono, Mikolaj Strug, Jake Obichere. Our core belief is that people, their stories, and rituals lie at the centre of making our cities and public spaces.


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Twizzle Spiced Alley

School for Creative Thinkers

The Concept of the alley in the City of Yazd is testimony to the harmonious coexistence of a series of innovative low tech architectural approaches generating an outstanding urban system in the middle of a desert. The hot desert climate is a challenging terrain for human survival. Understanding the solutions which were used centuries ago shows that responding to environmental crises doesn’t need to be complex and expensive. Water Management in the area with very limited sources, local material usage which means only earth, creation of natural and low-tech cooling systems come together to create enviroment-friendly microclimates – making the survival of humankind possible in an extreme macroclimate. In old city of Yazd buildings,walls and roofs are (and used to be) built of earth. Use of mud materials in the desert is feasible and practical and inexpensive. Adobe has a very high thermal capacity therefore it delays the heat transfer from outside to inside in the daytime and then accumulated heat in the walls will warm the house at night when the outside temperature decreases. A fascinating element of architecture in Yazd is wind towers called Badgir. They are a natural cooling system by generating convection current. A pool filled with water is built under these air trap channels, so the wind passes over the water and cools the air by transferring some of its heat to it. In addition to cooling is also evaporate some of the water with helps to increase the humidity in such an extreme arid climate.

School for Creative Thinkers is Museum of Architecture’s family programme inspiring children to learn from nature and build their imaginations. This month they are launching a series of do-at-home creative kits for children aged 7-12 years – all part of SfCT’s desire to excite children and families about architecture and design. Visit the website to find out more.


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Wadi Mellows

Artificial Kreativity

Description coming soon.

VOTE for Wadi Mellows

Explore other climate zones

The Museum of Architecture is pleased to announce the return of its ​hugely popular annual exhibition The Gingerbread City® at

6-7 Motcomb Street, SW1X 8JU

3 December – 2 January 2022




Buy Creative Kits


​Join one of our festive gingerbread house-making workshops taking place every day during the exhibition. Advance booking is essential.


The Museum of Architecture provides public programming year round. To help support programming such as The Gingerbread City and new initiatives, please consider making a donation to the MoA Charity Fund here and support our work.