Building with Gingerbread: Five Keys to Creating Successful Structures


Gingertown 2012

The exercise of imagination comes with no rules attached.  There is no manual and no blueprint for creating the whimsical confectionery constructions of the seventh annual Gingertown celebration.  However, when participating in this year’s ambition to fashion a university campus out of gingerbread, licorice whips, gumdrops, and icing, our colleagues, fellow design professionals, and other friends of Gingertown may find a few tips helpful.

  1. Inspect your materials – We strive to provide only the finest construction materials. Defects do, however, sometimes slip past our suppliers’ quality control or occur due to mishandling during shipment. Make sure that your gingerbread has no cracks, that your pretzel rods have been properly sanded, and that all chocolates have been stored at appropriate temperatures before you begin construction.
  2. Employ a structural system – The skills required to construct a self-supporting gingerbread building have mostly been lost to time and the master ginger-craftsmen and candy artisans of yore.  In modern ginger-construction times, it is suggested that you design and utilize a structural system to keep your ginger-building standing tall. We’ve found that cardboard boxes work great for this purpose (we’ll have some on hand).  If your team has planned ahead (always a good idea, even with ginger-neering), you can always build your base structure in advance.
  3. Bring your own special construction tools – The Gingertown City Council, assisted by its mascot Gingy (a gingerbread man in charge of operations), will provide basic construction tools: gingerbread knives, frosting bags and tips, cutting mats and straight edges, as will more than 250 pounds of gingerbread, 100 pounds of icing, and ten pounds of gumdrops will be on hand as well.  If your project requires any riggings, trappings, or specialized tools, be sure your team brings them.
  4. Know your construction adhesives – Royal icing is your liquid nails. This should handle most of your heavy duty construction needs. Buttercream icing, on the other hand, is primarily for decoration, and while it could be used to hold the occasional gum drop on the roof, this yummy and highly decorative adhesive should not be relied upon for a permanent bond.
  5.  Manage your construction supplies (self-restraint) – “These M&Ms cobblestones sure are tasty!” You are not the only one who feels this way. To insure that there are plenty of building supplies to fulfill our vast Gingertown ambitions, it is best to refrain from these critical design elements. In the event you bring your own supplemental snacks…er, that is, “building materials,” you may wish to prepare an answer to the inevitable, “Where’d you get that!?!”

The Gingertown celebration of the creativity, generosity, and civic spirit of the Washington-area design, building, and real estate community came to life this year on November 26, just in time for the holidays.  Founded and hosted by David M. Schwarz Architects, Gingertown was erected in four short hours at 1133 Connecticut Avenue, NW, in the heart of the nation’s capital. It will be on view all week until November 30th, after which it will be disassembled.  Individual buildings, along with cash contributions, will then be donated to area charities. For more information, go to

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