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January 10, 2022 | Alumni

When architects are bakers: U of T alum celebrates New College in gingerbread

New College built from gingerbread features glowing sugar windows, wafer pillars, and snow icing.

Reconstruction of New College III as part of the Toronto Society of Architects 'Gingerbread City'.

If building a gingerbread house is part of your holiday traditions, prepare to be inspired! U of T alumnus Joël León Danis (BA 2011 NEW, MArch 2015), a Toronto-based researcher and designer currently working toward his architecture license, has built an amazing reconstruction of New College III as part of the Toronto Society of Architects “Gingerbread City”.

León Danis graduated from the University of Toronto in 2011 with an Honours Bachelor of Arts with High Distinction after a double major in Architectural Studies & Urban Studies. He also completed his Masters in Architecture at U of T. Currently, he is the Programming Director for the Toronto Society of Architects. In this position, he leads the implementation of a wide range of programs and initiatives for the Toronto Society of Architects (TSA).

One such program is “Gingerbread City.” This “unique creative showcase and community building event brings together architects and gingerbread lovers alike for a little fun and innovative city building all while supporting a good cause.” The theme of the 2021 showcase is ‘Tastes Like Home’. According to the TSA, this is a topic with a wide variety of meanings. “Whether a house or a tower, a room or a landscape, a specific place or a feeling, the word ‘home’ means something different to everyone. This year we challenged our participants to reflect on what home means to them and create a gingerbread structure that reflects this—not only in shape and look, but also in how it tastes.”

A close up of the sugar stained glass windows with light behind them.


León Danis’ description of his amazing creation is as inspirational as the piece itself. “Reflecting on the theme of home, my submission for this year’s showcase is my first home in Canada—the University of Toronto’s New College Student Residence 3 at Willcocks and Spadina. I lived there for 3 years (first on the second floor and then up on the sixth floor) and it was my home base as I explored Toronto and started a new chapter of my life.

U of T’s New College Student Residence 3  was my home base as I explored Toronto and started a new chapter of my life

"Designed by Saucier + Perrotte architects and opened in 2003, the non-edible version provides a home to approximately 300 students every year, as well as community spaces in the lower floors. The aerial courtyards have always been my favourite spaces providing a clever interpretation of the typical academic courtyards that are common across U of T but in a more compact and denser form. Home might mean many things and change throughout your life, and this student residence was an important part of my story and for many of my friends who I met there!”

Made from three colours of gingerbread (molasses, spiced and orange w/ cloves), the intricately detailed recreation also makes use of graham crackers, jolly ranchers and butterscotch candy for windows, royal icing, hazelnut wafer cookies and one root beer candy cane. You can see more images of León Danis’ creation at

Gingerbread City is a completely free event, but they encourage those who enjoy the entries to donate to this year’s showcased organization, Red Door Family Shelter. You can learn more about Gingerbread City on the Toronto Society of Architects website.


Originally published by New College