GingerBridge 2020 Celebrates 6 years of Baking Fun

Our 6th Annual Gingerbread Competition – GingerBridge 2020 – found our teams baking, building, and presenting at home. We were joined by an outstanding panel of judges this year from AECOM, Corgan Architects, IBI Group, Geosyntec Consultants and Synchronis Architecture. All of us at KPFF send a huge thank you to these wonderful volunteers who gave of their time to join us in a bit of lighthearted fun and good holiday cheer. For the full video please visit us on our Facebook page @kpffla.

This year we wanted to take a little time to reflect on how all of this started. Many years ago, one of our associates had a brilliant idea of starting a lecture series to educate our engineers about the history of architecture. This series focused on the major movements of architecture to help us better understand our clients, and their design goals. After we wrapped up our first year of seminars, we had an idea to create a competition where gingerbread structural design could be based on what the engineers had learned in their architectural history lessons. We invited a panel of distinguished judges to join us and choose a grand prize winner based on architectural merit, as well as a second honor for outstanding presentation.

The final award in our trio is based on the structural integrity of the gingerbread as part of a shake table test. Initially, the structure that lasted the longest on the table would be declared the winner of this prize. As the years went by, our bakers became better and better. Their understanding of the material and characteristics of gingerbread and different forms of edible glue such as frosting, marshmallows, Rice Krispie treats, and candy glass and their limitations deepened. Thus, the level of sophistication of design and structural integrity grew in accordance with our new understanding of the materiality as well as the in-depth discussions focused on themes within architecture. For example, last year was a battle between the sacred and the profane as embodied by churches versus stadiums. Each team had to choose between building a structure made for worship or sport. Most teams choose to build open air stadiums that proved impossible to break. Though our shake table is also enhanced every year, last year the monolithic arenas would not yield. There was much disappointment for the audience and judges. For what is a shake table test without massive destruction?

Our presenters also grow in sophistication every year. The skills on display, with elaborate costumes, set pieces, songs and stories have blossomed over time into large productions. We have discovered so many hidden talents amongst our group thanks to these songs and dances, inventive back stories, and one act plays. We look forward to these funny and sometimes touching moments every year - almost as much as watching gingerbread fall apart.

In 2020 we faced many obstacles and challenges, in our office, across the country, and around the world. As a work family, we wanted to make sure we could partake in one thing that we all love and enjoy: our annual gingerbread tradition. However, building structures in teams was problematic, and a uniform shake table was impossible. Asking everyone to convene in the office to watch the destruction didn’t seem like a good idea. So, the gingerbread team had to think of a way to uniformly destroy a structure, and present to a panel of judges while avoiding the technical issues that often plague live online meetings. Enter our Los Angeles Structural leader, Aaron Reynolds, who had the brilliant idea of loading gingerbread bridges with cans.

To celebrate our expanding bridge practice, we learned about the history of bridges and some basics of their design. Then teams were formed. Everyone could bake individually, with family, or a Covid-safe team. Each bridge was built and then filmed while respective teams loaded cans until collapse - and collapse they must. Part of the fun is the unexpected moment when the ginger snaps and candy flies in all directions. We ensured structural failure with significant penalties for indestructible bridges. Then we all gathered at lunch to watch these colorful, fun, and beautiful bridges get crushed under the weight of soda and green beans. It was spectacular!

While we do not know if we can gather again in December of 2021, one thing we do know is the indominable spirit of our bakers lives on. We wish you all the happiest of New Year’s and look forward to more ginger breaks to come.

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