Thursday, August 28, 2008

Civil planning on a very tiny scale!

The brick roller came! The brick roller came (and I can't get Brick House out of my head)!

Unsure as I was about the efficiency of mail order baking supply companies, I wasn't planning on actually making any gingerbread until later in September. So I was very surprised to find a box full of commercial royal icing mix, sanding sugar and my brick roller waiting for me yesterday evening. Of course I immediately unwrapped everything. The brick roller is really cool and really tiny...which means that there will be some testing this weekend.

I ordered this set of supplies from This place has everything. It's completely and totally overwhelming and I'm fairly certain that if you got locked in their warehouse for a couple of nights you could survive off of the fondant and sugar sprinkles.

I need to take the time here--before anything has been built--to provide disclosure of intent. I'm not an engineer or an architect or a contractor . Mention the words sine and cosine and my palms get a little clammy. The term tongue and groove makes me giggle. I'm also not a gingerbread purist. So, all you cookie snobs out there who expect me to construct this thing completely out of gingerbread and royal icing can just stop reading now. While I have the very best intentions (I do scour each month's issue of Dwell after all), I also have no qualms about utilizing support structures to maintain the structural integrity of this baby. Foam blocks, tin foil and perhaps even chicken wire are all my friends. And, like any good friend, I plan to use, exploit and manipulate them accordingly. I do promise to keep things as edible as possible. But, at least in this builder's case, I'm going to need all the help I can get.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Foam Board and Nostalgia

A cat…a cat…my foam board model for a cat…

Seriously though. This weekend was project: see if the templates you pulled out of your ass actually fit together into a facsimile of Royce Hall.

After stocking up on some foam board, masking tape and new drafting rulers (I never pass up the opportunity to buy a new drafting ruler—I use them for everything from sewing to baking to actually measuring things), I was set to begin construction. Oh—have to give a shout-out to the Graph Aides art supply shop in Westchester. They were hopping on Saturday because the adjacent Otis Art School began classes today. Students were getting 20% off and since I live in the neighborhood and the owner guy recognized me, I got 20% off as well. Thanks artistic guy with equally artistic though geographically unidentifiable Latin accent!

It took me about two hours to measure and cut out the pieces. Let me just say that foam board is not as much fun to cut as I remember. Let me also just say that nothing gets me more in the holiday mood than cutting foam board in my 90 degree kitchen in August while sweat drips down my face. Evil as it is however, foam board is about the same thickness as gingerbread, so I didn’t have a choice. It took maybe another 30 minutes to construct the monstrosity (again, not including the roofs).

Here is what I came up with:

Front view:

Front view from side:

Side view:


Notes and lessons learned:

  • I need to decide which windows will be cut and which ones to fake-out (and how to fake them out).
  • The towers need to be increased in width by .25” for the front and back facing panels to allow for the thickness of the gingerbread.
  • Roofs will need to be measured, baked and then installed after entire building is constructed in order to get good fit.
  • I’m going to have to use some higher level geometry to figure out how to make the pyramid roofs for the front towers. Maybe I’ll take the diagram over to the math department.

Next steps:

This week I’m going to update my templates and begin cutting them out of tag board. Merry, merry!

Friday, August 22, 2008

What's Your Dream?

For years I’ve had this fantasy of constructing UCLA’s Royce hall out of gingerbread. This year, I’m going to make it happen. AND, I’m going to blog about it here, in excruciating and illustrated detail, because that’s the kind of girl I am.

Why Royce Hall? Well, it’s only the iconic symbol of the institutionalization that represented the first eight years of my adult life. Huh? I went to UCLA. For a long time. Royce Hall is the building I fell in love with while on a college visit and it heavily influenced my decision to go to UCLA (I was 17 with the decision-making skills of a 17-year-old, pretty buildings were persuasive). Many moons later, I stood on the stage of Royce Hall and was hooded as a learned scholar. Most recently, on a cool fall evening, Royce Hall is where I saw Gandolf (Sir Ian McKellen) drop his pants and show off the family jewels in a production of King Lear. In my book, any place that would let me be a doctor (at least philosophically) and display a grown man’s junk is storied enough to be (temporarily) immortalized in baked good.

Let’s suspend disbelief and set aside the fact that I’ve never made anything out of gingerbread for a moment. I’ve spent some serious time with Legos and Lincoln logs—heck, I was like the diorama queen in the 4th grade. I’m also very enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is important. Besides, I’ve already ordered the brick stamper-roller. So, there is no going back now.

To set the mood I feel it appropriate to take a look at the grand dame herself. From the Front:


After significant design modifications and some fun with math, I came up with the following models (some of the diagram has been lost in translation). If my foam board modeling works out, my version will be 23” at its widest, 15” deep and 11” at its highest. By my count it will require 17 templates and 55 pieces (not counting the back tower detail or whatever shenanigans I can think up for the landscaping).

Floor layout:

Front diagram:

Side diagram:

Back diagram:

This weekend my goal is to build this baby out of foam board.