Arts & Entertainment

Charles Phoenix's 5 days of Christmas: Making a tamale model of Walt Disney Concert Hall

Charles Phoenix posing with his unfinished tamale version of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Charles Phoenix posing with his unfinished tamale version of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
KCET/LA County

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For the last episode in his series of uniquely Angeleno holiday observances, Charles Phoenix decided to recreate the Walt Disney Concert Hall out of tamales, with a little help from the folks at Mama's Hot Tamale Café.

As with Phoenix's other holiday experiments, he started with an inspiration. And it all began with a visit to one of "Los Angeles' most underrated landmarks," he says.

Standing in front of a tamale-shaped building on Whittier Boulevard in East L.A., he says he wondered, "If a building is shaped like a tamale, why can't a tamale be shaped like a building?" Spotting the Walt Disney Concert Hall from where he stood, Phoenix decided to use the concert venue as a model for some tasty architecture.

Tamales, traditionally eaten during the holidays, were perfect building blocks for the project. A bunch of tamales were tied together to form a foundation and secured on a base with masa, the corn dough used to make the Latin American treat. Corn husks were then cut and stapled to the structure.

"We kind of sculpted corn husks going around," he added, "cutting them like the shape of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which looks to me like a building in a blender."

After a silver paint job, the miniature concert hall was taken to the actual venue for a photo shoot. "People were walking by like, 'OK, what is this,'" Phoenix says. "But it turned out. It was great!"

Phoenix says he'll admit the tamale structure remains uneaten. "Okay, I'll admit it, I took it home and it's sitting in my freezer next to the gingerbread house I made five years ago," he says. "That's a different story all together."

This is the last in a series of alternative holiday observances Phoenix filmed as part of the L.A. County Arts Holiday Celebration. The videos are to be released Christmas Eve, but he decided to give KPCC a sneak preview this week.