Extreme Makeover: Gingerbread Edition

Have your house and eat it, too: a UCLA alumna builds the iconic Royce Hall out of gingerbread.


By Alison Hewitt

Published Dec 9, 2008 11:01 AM

What's two feet long, entirely edible, with three windows in one tower but only two in the other? A gingerbread Royce Hall, of course.

"I always joked about it: 'Someday, I'll do Royce Hall on gingerbread!'" says Shannon Faris '95, MA '97, Ph.D. '05. "It turned out cool. I was impressed. I've never made anything out of gingerbread."

Under construction: canned food holds the walls together while the frosting-mortar dries.

There was just something about the university’s world-famous icon that called to her, Faris recounts in the blog she devoted to this experiment in cookie-architecture, The Misanthropic Hostess.

"Royce Hall is the building I fell in love with while on a college visit," she types. "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)."

Faris spent four months planning and making her gingerbread opus. She built a 55-piece foam mock-up to hammer out the dimensions, used food coloring and trial and error to tint the gingerbread just the right shade of brick-red, and caught her cat nibbling off the towers of Royce Hall.

Bella the cat, days after taking a bite out of Faris' Royce Hall towers, dines on the coconut grass.

Once the roof-tops were iced on, the melted-candy stained-glass windows were in place, and the green coconut landscaping was laid, there was just one obstacle left: getting the 50-pound craft project to campus. That's where her husband comes in.

Although Faris now works at USC, her heart remains at UCLA — along with her husband, Tom Davis, who works on campus as general manager of ISP Sports, a contractor managing multi-media marketing for UCLA Athletics. Faris, the director of planning and external reporting at USC's business school, and Davis carefully carried gingerbread Royce to his conference room in Pauley Pavillion, just outside of gate 10.

"We've had a few extra visitors stopping by to check it out," Davis said. "It's been fun."

Gingerbread Royce architect Shannon Faris with her husband, Tom Davis, in between 8-claps at the UCLA-USC football game in 2006.

Faris says some of the complimentary oohs and ahhs are also tempered by another reaction.

"I think people's first thought is, 'Wow, you must have a lot of free time,'" Faris laughs. "But this is just something that's been rattling around in my head awhile. Every year we try to do something UCLA-related for our holiday card, so this will be it for 2008."

Part of the fun is sending those UCLA-themed cards to her USC colleagues. "While my office may not be painted blue and gold for obvious reasons, my heart will always belong to UCLA," she says. Still, both Faris and her husband say she's finally exorcised the gingerbread bug from her system.

"This is a project she's been talking about for three years and I knew it was just a matter of time before she did this," Davis concludes. "But I don't think there will be a gingerbread Pauley Pavilion or a gingerbread Ackerman Union anytime soon."



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