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House Building Tips From An Architect And Gingerbread City Planner

The only thing better than working your way through a plate of holiday cookies is working your way through a whole town meticulously constructed from gingerbread, candy and holiday cookies. And while not everyone can be expected to recreate Gingertown – an annual fundraiser that creates a 15-foot-by-5-foot edible world out of 245 square feet of gingerbread and 200 pounds of icing – you can still learn a lot from the architects behind it. We spoke with Jon Zubiller, an associate at Gingertown creators David M. Schwarz Architects, for a few pro tips, some of which actually came from his 4-year-old daughter.

Remember Who You’re Working For

Give your kid ownership over the project and let them take the lead by asking pointed questions – you’ll be surprised by their answers because you’d never think to make a mailbox out of a Pez dispenser. “Communicating the aspects of how a house is built and how things are supported, they get it pretty early on,” says Zubiller. “What it comes down to for me is being an assistant to my daughter versus her being an assistant to me.”

Think Like An Architect

  • What’s The Zoning?: Assess the “lot” that your gingerbread house will be built on and determine how to situate it. What angles will people see the house from, and how will it sit in relation to other structures nearby (even if by “structure” you mean “toaster oven”)?
  • Green Space: Gingertown maintains a strict “No Zero Lot Line” building code, which means every structure needs to have a yard of some sort. You don’t have to adhere to this in your own Gingerworld, but just remember that neighbors hate the guy in the McMansion – even if it’s made out of dough.
  • Gain Perspective: Zubiller likes Teddy Graham bears to populate his structures, because they provide a sense of scale and look hilarious when you give them frosting mustaches and bad holiday sweaters.
  • Customize Your Materials: For less uniform-looking gingerbread, score the dough before it bakes. This variegates the surface so the color is darker in some places and lighter in others. Then look disapprovingly at someone else’s gingerbread and say, “It’s so … brown.”