In just 40 hours and one week's time, Jake Welde (E’19) and Izzy Korostoff (C’18) constructed a 14x20 inch confectionery masterpiece: a gingerbread replica of Fisher Fine Arts Library. When they discovered that they could use the laser cutters in Penn's engineering school to cut sheets of gingerbread into two–dimensional patterns, they immediately thought to make a gingerbread model of a building on Penn's campus. They decided on the Fine Arts Library, since its intricate Venetian Gothic architecture particularly lent itself to decorative baking. They decided to “actually finish the project” when Izzy’s father told them about a gingerbread house–building competition sponsored by Philadelphia's Center for Architecture and Design.

With the help of Bill Whitaker, who works at Penn Libraries, Izzy was able to procure the original elevation drawings of the library so they could accurately design the parts. Each gingerbread piece was modeled using a design software, which they used to create a three–dimensional model of all the parts to ensure they fit together correctly.

Then Izzy and Jake got cooking. First, they baked 12 massive sheets of gingerbread in Izzy’s sister’s kitchen. They cut each sheet into pieces using the patterns from the 3D models. The body of the library is entirely comprised of gingerbread from these sheets, even internally, where gingerbread support beams mirror the structure of the library itself. The pieces are held together by hot glue, piped over with icing to adhere to contest rules that state that everything visible on the house must be edible. 

Surprisingly, creating complex designs on the pieces was actually easier than the assembly, since the gingerbread sheets weren’t always perfectly flat. If a sheet warped during baking, the pieces that they cut from it were much harder to assemble. “Making really big pieces is very difficult, but making intricate designs is very easy,” Jake explained.

The final product is now on display at the Center for Architecture and Design, along with all of the other submissions to the competition. But don’t try and eat their gingerbread houses. Jake warned that it isn’t as tasty as it looks. “It’s not really delicious…I mean, Izzy thinks it is! But it’s harder and drier than a gingerbread cookie.” It’s also treated with acrylic spray to preserve it for the duration of the competition, so sneak a gumdrop at your own risk.

 Vote for their house (up until December 23rd) and check out all the other submissions here!