Seattle Architecture: the Art of a Custom Gingerbread Village

We mentioned a few weeks ago that that our annual contribution to JDRF’s Gingerbread Village at the Sheraton is on display to the public. This week, we thought we’d give you a closer look at what goes in to this sweet Seattle architecture…and how similar the process is to our residential custom design projects! GHDA architect Eric Drivdahl walked us through the process.


JDRF and the Sheraton announce the theme in July. This year, in honor of the event’s twenty-fifth anniversary, they put forward “25 Years of Cheer: A Celebration of Seattle.” Their vision was to depict Seattle’s architecture as it was 100 years ago and as it might appear 100 years in the future. Our team requested to recreate Seattle’s past and subsequently received the opportunity to reimagine Pioneer Square: Seattle’s oldest neighborhood.


Just as when we custom design a home, we begin with research, brainstorms, and concept drawings before we pitch our design to JDRF and the Sheraton for approval. We also evaluate our assets. We assess our resources and realistically consider our restraints and our ability to execute our design. Then we commence with production.

Seattle architecture inspired our custom designed gingerbread village.
Photo from Rob Ketcherside from Seattle, USA – Pioneer Square, Seattle, circa 1906.


We draft detailed construction drawings, plan out every inch of space, and prepare for our custom build. The Roberts Group graciously crafted our display structure this year: a flawless, rotating structure that allowed us to showcase both Pioneer Square and the Seattle Underground.

While our edible materials are delicious, they aren’t rigid enough to endure nearly six weeks of public display. So, the Roberts Group also helped us with one of the best known secrets of gingerbread craftsmanship: plywood and two-by-fours. It’s true. But those solid “bones” create a solid canvas for the scrumptious finishes to come.


October brings tangible action. Our sketches and schemes come to life. Our Sheraton chef bakes and cuts custom gingerbread pieces according to the templates we provide, and we breathe life into our custom design with tantalizing materials. Jolly Ranchers, Chiclets, Sour Patch belts, Andes mints, royal icing, fondant, and more converge to recreate Pioneer Square near the turn of the twentieth century. We believe Seattle architecture has never looked more delicious!

Seattle architecture comes to life in a custom designed gingerbread village.
Assembling our gingerbread scene.

November and December

Four-and-a-half months of creative labor go on display to the tens of thousands of visitors who pass through the exhibit each Christmas season. After twenty-five years, the event is an established tradition in Seattle’s holiday scene, and we’re honored to be a part of it.

Seattle architecture modeled with gingerbread for the JDRF Gingerbread Village.
Pioneer Square on display at the Seattle Center.

The Art of Architecture

We’re committed to the art of architecture, no matter the materials. Eric reminds us that “art can happen in many different mediums, and candy is simply another expression of that. These gingerbread houses allow us to take what we know of materials, patterns, and textures and apply it to a different context: a context designed to delight the eyes and imaginations of young children.” From gingerbread and gumdrops to marble and cedar, we’re inspired to create custom designs that bring dreams to life.

Visit the exhibit in person at the Seattle Center between now and January 1, and learn more about the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and twenty-five tasty years of Seattle’s gingerbread architecture.