One way to remind the local industry that your architecture firm is a DC-based business is to create a memorable community event, and then invite industry professionals to be an integral part of it. That's what David M. Schwarz Architects did five years ago.
"We were having a conversation about something that we could do to remind the architectural community in DC that we're here," explained DMSAS' marketing director Katie Garrett. "We are a DC firm and have been the entirety of our 33 years."
As the architects sat around a table in their firm on L Street, in Farragut North, in the late fall of 2006, an idea stuck - Gingertown, a master planned community constructed in the delicious coppery brown of gingerbread, festooned with the arc of candy cane streetlamps, the shimmer of foil-wrapped chocolates, and the flare of gum drops.
Given the global nature of most of David M. Schwarz's work, there was a time period where "we weren't doing any work locally," said Garrett. "People were forgetting about us here in DC, especially among the younger architecture community... we wanted to remind them that we are here. This is our home, where we live and work. We wanted to make it something fun."
Gingerbread lends itself to amateur architectural creations in kitchens around the world, why not get architects together to create on a miniature scale, and give the proceeds to charity. It worked, the event has been snowballing since its creation, and DMSAS has seen an uptick in work in the DC area.
The first year of Gingertown brought in $300 for each charity. Last year, charities received around $700. And this year, seven DC-area charities will receive over $1000 each. The recipients are all, "DC institutions," said Garrett. "We wanted to support the organizations that support our community" - My Sister's Place, Children's National Medical Center, Martha's Table, So Others Might Eat, St. Elizabeth's, Washington Home, and the Wendt Center.
With a master plan laid out by David M. Schwarz, anyone from the building industry - architects, engineers, construction firms, etc. - was invited to gather a team, claim a site (for free) and spend four hours one candy-coated night creating a gingerbread structure alongside numerous industry professionals.
This year's theme is "Elf Vegas," and plots are strung along a miniature Las Vegas Strip, offering up sites with clever names such as, the M&M Grand, Hershey's Excali-bar, and The Marshmellagio. Due to a flood of interest this year, DMSAS just recently expanded the master plan to accommodate everyone, and there will be 45 sites. Teams, made up of 2 to 10 people each, will create an edible masterpiece using materials - over 250 pounds of gingerbread, 100 pounds of icing and 10 pounds of gumdrops - provided by David M. Schwarz, in the lobby of Washington Square on Connecticut Avenue on Monday, November 28th, at 6 p.m.
The sweet-smelling event will be open to the hungry eyes of the public, and will remain on display in the Washington Square lobby from November 28th to December 2nd, before the town is broken up and individual buildings distributed to charities, along with the proceeds. Sponsors of the event, also participating in the building event, include Walter P. Moore, PageSoutherlandPage, Davis Construction, Perkins + Will, ZGF, ECS, Studio39, AIA Emerging Architects, and Frankie's Folio.
Inspiration for the Elf Vegas theme of this year's Gingertown were two David M. Schwarz Architects' Las Vegas projects: a Strip-adjacent retail, dining and entertainment district for Caesar's Entertainment with Observation Wheel (at left), which will be recreated in Gingertown, and opens in 2013, and the Smith Center for the Performing Arts (at right), which includes Symphony Park, and opens in early March 2012.
As for work locally, DMSAS is behind the design for the renovation of The Pennsylvania Building for Willco, a 250,000-s.f office at 1275 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, to be under construction next year. Schwarz is also responsible for the design of The JBG Companies' "Boutique Hotel" at 13th and U Streets.
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