(2015) Holiday Gift Guide for Architects

Most architects appreciate the thoughtfulness of well-crafted items; hence, they are nitpicky and can be extremely frustrating to shop for. Peering through their non-prescription black spectacles they constantly critique inferior design. However, all architects are relatively easy to shop for if you follow these 4 confined parameters.



jobsSteve Jobs

by Walter Isaacson    $21.80 Hardcover

Apple. Great design. The influential mastermind behind the company. All superbly written by Walter Isaacson. I probably don’t need to say anything further. But if you never read the book back when the iPhone 4 was popular, and five lackluster Steve Jobs movies later you think you’ve missed your chance to read this noteworthy biography – then let me reassure you that it is still not too late to purchase the Hardcopy. Or if you were like me and read Chasing the Dream: My Lifelong Journey to the World Series by Joe Torre and now think all biographies are boring – then don’t worry! Unlike those biased Autobiographical books, this one removes the Auto.



by Geoff Manaugh    $38.00 Paperback

If you are interested in architecture, design, sewer-systems, Atlantis, gender-neutral alien species, asteroids, fireworks, or anything awesome – then Geoff Manaugh probably covers it in The BLDGBLOG Book. Geoff Manaugh writes the marvelous BLDG BLOG where every unusual subject matter is expertly transcribed with an architectural or design perspective. This is one of the most interesting books I have ever read. I purchased it in 2010 for $19.77 and it must not currently be in print production – since the price has increased – but you can still find new or used copies.


1000 Dot-to-Dot: Icons

by Thomas Pavitte    $12.75 Paperback

Do you enjoy beautifully designed books? Do you have a fondness for dot-to-dot drawings? Are you an adult? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you will admire 1000 Dot-to-Dot: Icons. Every image has 1000 dots to connect, and each one will take about an hour. I love to look at this more than I actually have time to finish one (I have had it for a year and completed two drawings) but they still look fun. There are several additional dot-to-dot books including 1000 Dot-to-Dot: Cities. However, the Icons edition is enjoyable, because unlike actual dot-to-dots you did as a child, there is still a guess as to what you are creating half-way through a lot of these portraits.


The Tipping Point

by Malcolm Gladwell    $12.55 Paperback

I’m sure you might be wondering why architects would want a book other than architecture or design. But whenever I want to read an “architectural” book I always include Malcolm Gladwell. I never know where Malcolm Gladwell books are shelved in each bookstore – are they in the marketing section? Perhaps philosophy, science, or psychology departments? Like any quality architectural book, Gladwell intriguingly transcribes the human-condition within our world. Moreover, it is much more relevant (and enjoyable) than a book claiming to be an Architecture Styles Spotter’s Guide from Classical Temples to Soaring Skyscrapers. This was Malcolm Gladwell’s first and most well-known book – but still arguably his most influential. If you have never read a Malcolm Gladwell book previously then start with this one.




  Leuchtturm 1917  – Soft Cover Notebook

by Leuchtturm1917 (5.75 x 8.25-Inches)   $12.25

Sometimes I refuse things purely out of stubbornness or to not be pigeon-holed into a stereotype. Unlike stereotypical architects I don’t wear black spectacles, a cloak, and carry a moleskine notebook. While I still want black spectacles and wish I was confident enough to wear a cape, I wanted to provide a counterpoint to the architectural love affair with moleskine.

Moleskine has become an inferior-crafted status symbol. “What kind of notebook do you have? A Pentalic! Oh… I of course own 17 moleskines.” (And then they probably say the word moleskine weird.) I think moleskines are nice, but for the same price you can purchase the Luechtturm1917 large notebook that has superior paper. Plus it has a table of contents, and wait for it… page numbering! A blank sketching notebook with small grey page numbers? Preposterous!

It doesn’t lay as flat as moleskines, which I infer to have a better spine, but if you like to draw across both pages (despite bleed-through) then the moleskine might win one category. But otherwise it’s very similar with a back pocket to store treats, and a long page-marker ribbon.

Additionally, hard-cover versus soft-cover notebooks are usually just preference. If you want a notebook for every project, or to chronologically add to your bookcase – then a hardcover notebook is suitable. But I typically like the feel of soft cover notebooks for sketching. If I were to imagine the notebook Ernest Hemingway carried around the African safari, it wouldn’t be some precious hardbound book. It’d be a leather softcover notebook tucked under his left arm, while his right arm carried a machete. Without doing any research, and making false historical claims, the only notebook Hemingway ever owned was the Luechtturm1917.


 Field Notes  – Memo Pad

by Field Notes (3.5 x 5.5-Inches)   $9.95

Field Notes are probably preferred by writers over architects, as they can fit in your back pocket. Architects already carry a satchel around to fit their larger notebooks, thereby, eliminating the convenience of the pocket notebook. Most architects will not use these notebooks, but they still will appreciate the thoughtful designs – plus Field Notes annually produces fun new themed notebooks (for next year’s holiday gift).


 Staedtler Pigment Liner

by Staedtler   $5.95

Architects love sketching, and thereby love pens. Not crappy ballpoint pens you stole from your local bank, but nice felt tip pens that dry out when you forget to put the cap back on. Every architect has their preferred pen, but they will always welcome a new pen as a gift. In my opinion there are two types of pens for architects: writing pens and sketching pens. If you want to spend $200 on a fountain pen with a gold nib, then purchase the Lamy 2000. But if you are a normal human with limited finances then purchase the Staedtler Pigment Liner (black ink). You can find the 3-pack, but .05 and .1 are nice for fine lines, .1 is ideal for writing, and .3 creates bolder lines. Most architects are probably familiar with Micron’s, which are similar but the Staedtler Pigment Liner seems more durable than the long wobbly metal nib on microns.

Many architects like sketching with larger marker-type pens. We use Staedtler Lumocolor markers in our office, and many architects love fine point Sharpies. But markers often bleed too much when writing. Therefore, if you want a versatile pen suitable for both sketching and writing – purchase the Staedtler Pigment Liner.



mossMarimo Moss Balls

Pistils Nursery   $27.00

Marimo balls are a rare form of algae only found in a few locations on the planet that form into velvety-green spheres. My Mother-in-Law got me these Marimo balls, and they are currently sitting on my desk at work. They are supposed to bring you good fortunes – so I’m pretty sure I can’t say anything bad about them or my luck will change. However, for being plant-like they are fairly low maintenance. They aren’t noisy. They don’t block your computer screen. They just sit there. Staring at you. Bringing you good luck.

This gift probably didn’t need a diatribe; I should’ve just said, “rare round aglae is cool.”

momaclockNotepad Clock | MoMA STORE

by Savitri Sukul   $25.00

Anything from the MoMA store is awesome. But this notepad clock is cleverly designed. The entire clock is constructed into a notepad, with the right notepad half perforated. I actually don’t want to slowly dismantle my notepad clock by actually using it, so I’m constantly searching for sticky notes.

Architect’s Cubes | MoMA STORE

by John Bennett & Gustavo Bonevardi   $58.00

Another MoMA store gift that my wife gave to me. For some reason I actually don’t have these on my desk at work. But they are actually pretty cool. A simple concept: 1” cubes of different materials. But it makes you contemplate and appreciate the weight, texture, and appearance of disparate materials. I wish they would also make another set solely of species of wood: “Wow ipe is heavy!”

savoyeLEGO Architecture | Villa Savoye

by LEGO   $69.95

My wife gave me both Lego Architecture: Villa Savoye and Lego Architecture: Farnsworth House. Both are amazing. All architects have fond memories of playing with Lego’s in their youth; therefore, they will be delighted to enjoy and actually learn more about modern architectural masterpieces. However, Villa Savoye (by Le Corbusier) and the Farnsworth House by (Mies van der Rohe) are probably the only 2 Lego Architecture kits you want to give an architect as a gift. There are a couple Frank Lloyd Wright Lego kits but they have been discontinued and the prices online were outrageous. Otherwise, most of the other kits are lame buildings: The White House, Space Needle, Rockefeller Center… if they weren’t originally created by a great architect, why would I want to re-create them?

However, the Lego Architecture kits are much better gifts for architects than the all-white LEGO Architecture Studio Playset. Those are just white Lego’s. It’s a great gift for the child of an architect, but if an architect wanted to build a model of a fantasy building he would use big-boy materials like Museum Board and Elmer’s Glue.


 S’well Water Bottle – Wood Collection

by S’well   $35.00

If you love fake materials painted on stainless steel drinking vessels, then look no further.

Toshiba Chromebook 2

by Toshiba   $279.00

I use this every day, and I can’t figure out how nobody else uses Chromebooks. I call it my CrimeBook because I feel like a sleuth who discovered something nobody else has. If you only use your iPad to stream episodes of Project Runway, the Toshiba Chromebook is half the price but includes a keyboard. Or if you constantly write, blog, or email – a MacBook is something like 2 billion times the cost.




Homemade Gin Kit

by The Homemade Gin Kit   $40.00

Do you ever think in a former life you might have been a crazed alchemist constantly mixing together potions and elixirs in ill-fated attempts to create gold, while accidentally spilling your alcoholic beverage in your concoction while swatting at baby dragons? Yeah. Me too.


 Himalayan Salt Tequila Shot Glasses

by UncommonGoods (Set of 4)   $28.00

We received these shot glasses in a small inconspicuous box with wads of brown paper. No instructions, no message. But I guess four chunks of salt with a hole bored into them is rather simple: Pour tequila. Enjoy.




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