Students with face masks carefully building gingerbread Cathedral of Learning
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’Tis the season for a gingerbread Cathedral of Learning

  • Our City/Our Campus
  • Students
  • Cathedral of Learning

’Tis the season for baking, building, blue-printing and laser cutting.

Amid final exams and just in time for National Gingerbread House Day on Sunday, two Pitt teams took on the ultimate baking challenge: making a gingerbread version of the Cathedral of Learning.

Want to try your hand at building one of the most iconic academic buildings in the country? You’ll need flour, butter, sugar and an industrial sized laser cutter, to start. According to our Pitt teams — one from the Center for Creativity (C4C) and one from Pitt Makerspace — you’ll also need about 20 hours from start to finish. 

Head over to the C4C in the University Store on Fifth and to the lobby of Benedum Hall to check out each team’s respective structure. Although you may want to, no taste tests allowed! If you visit, tag the University social channels for a chance to be featured.

How did they do it? 

Converting late gothic revival architecture into gingerbread is no small task.

Each found a 3D model of the structure and broke down the components to build test models. 

Mike Campbell from Pitt’s C4C built one from foam board, and the Pitt Makerspace team used 1/4-inch clear acrylic. With the help of Dan Yates, Adam Webb, Maya Román, Rachel Eskander and Nickolai Miller, the Pitt Makerspace group sanded the acrylic to give it a frosted effect and then adhered the structure together with hot glue.

To tackle the intricate linework and windows of the building, both teams used laser cutters.

Next, came the gingerbread, and a lot of it.

Coming in at 3 feet, 3 inches tall, the Pitt Makerspace team, mostly made up of students, baked on and off campus using Posvar Hall’s industrial kitchen. Team members also made extra gingerbread in their homes off campus.

Over at the C4C, staff member Shannon Fink took on the task of turning her kitchen into gingerbread headquarters. 

Adding an extra flare

It wouldn’t be a Pitt project if both teams didn’t decide to go the extra mile.

For this challenge, the Pitt C4C team created a clay Peregrine falcon figurine that soars above the structure and clay figurines of Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd and Chancellor Patrick Gallagher welcoming all to the gingerbread Cathedral of Learning. Inside, there are printed photos of the Nationality Rooms and, outside, a replica fountain at the base of the structure. 

For the Pitt Makerspace team, the 3-feet-by-3-inch structure includes a printed Pitt Makerspace logo and a printed Vice Provost Kenyon Bonner gingerbread person set on top of icing and gumdrops. 

Also, both structures come complete with victory lights to cheer on the newest ACC football champions. 


— Katie Johnstone