What to get an Architect for Christmas (2012)

December 10, 2012 — 37 Comments

What to get an architect for Christmas … it’s a question I get asked every year because I must have my finger on the pulse of architects everywhere … or at least that’s what most people think. While it’s true I have some insight … because I’m an architect and I know what I like … most of these ideas reflect my own personal tastes … which are superb and have been finely honed over a span of 44 Christmases.

So let’s get to it. This is the list of What to get an Architect for Christmas – 2012.


Cubebot for Christmas 2012

Cubebot – $20

Architects are really like grown up kids and I don’t know a single one that doesn’t still have an affinity for well designed toys. Cubebot originally made it into my office because I bought one as a white elephant gift last year for my office Christmas party. I failed to successfully navigate the intricacies of the gift exchange so it went to someone else … so I went out and bought another one for myself. The photos above should provide some clue as to whether or not I have enjoyed my “gift”.

(note to employers: all of these photos were created on my lunch break…)


this is what I used to look like when I put on a sweater vest


Sweater Vests – varies

Fashion is an area where I could find myself in trouble. While I tend to think I am a snappy *snap* dresser, the truth of the matter is that I’m probably not. If it weren’t for my wife, I would probably dress like a zombie – clothes full of holes and stains. I’ve never understood why the rank and file of such a purportedly creative bunch would choose to have their appearance so easily defined with all the black clothes and heavy framed glasses. We have been typed and categorized with minimal effort by the public at large and my wife frequently points out that as soon as an architect deviates from the recipe, they are terrible dressers. I used to dispute her opinion but it is becoming harder and harder argue my case when the evidence at her disposal is so readily available.

Architect Bob Borson and Fashion Icon Jason Wu

If case you don’t know (and you are probably an architect so why would you?) but that’s me and fashion icon Jason Wu … and I’m wearing a sweater vest in the picture. If this picture had been taken just a moment sooner, you would have seen that Jason winked at me and said “nice call on the sweater vest”*


Neutra Complete Works by Barbara Lamprecht

Neutra Complete Works $44

When I saw that this book was available on Amazon for only $44 ,I almost walked over to sit in a chair just so I could fall out of it. I remember when this book originally came out, it cost like a billion dollars, which is just out of my price range. As a result, I have always wanted one for myself. Instead of shelling out the actual $250 sticker price that was associated with this book when it came out in 2000, I bought food. So fast forward 12 years and a bunch of Ramen Noodles later, I’m pretty sure that this book will finally be making its way into my collection this December.



DeWalt 18v power drill/ driver

Dewalt 18v Cordless Drill/ Driver DC970K $99

I have another post I am   s l o w l y   working on that is basically about the tools that you should have in your DIY tool bag. The number one item on that list is a quality power drill/ driver (insert our own tacky joke here). I have one that I bought probably 15 years ago that I still use all the time. It is unquestionably the most important tool that a person can have and if you are a somewhat younger-ish architect or architect in training, you will most certainly have use for an item like this. I myself have a Craftsman but I’ve included this one because it is currently the highest rated drill/driver on Amazon. It comes with its own case, quick charges in an hour, has two batteries (which is a feature that will frequently come in handy) and at 18v, it has the power to get just about any job around the house done. I’ve used mine to rebuild my deck, build a fence, a few bookcases, hung sheetrock, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Seriously, if you have someone you care about enough to spend $100 bucks on and they don’t have a drill, you know what you need to do.



Welding Lessons for Christmas 2012

Welding Classes – $52 per credit hour (Dallas Community College)

I can almost guarantee that every architect, architecture student, or architect wanna-be wants to learn how to weld. Why? Because it’s cool, because it’s melting metal, and because you get to have totally cool gear. I don’t currently have anything that needs welding but don’t worry about that … I’d weld two pieces of scrap metal together and call it a paperweight.


Chisel and Mouse Architectural Models collage

Chisel and Mouse Architectural Models

Architectural Models from Chisel & Mouse – $169

These are incredibly detailed and finely crafted plaster model reproductions of famous architectural buildings. I can appreciate that not everyone wants a ‘Cubebot‘ for Christmas … maybe something a little more dignified and refined is in order? These models are something that garners appreciation of the finished product … you get it, you look at it, you love it … but you don’t play with it. Each of the Chisel & Mouse architectural models is handmade in their studio in Sussex, England. They are made of strong plaster that has a reassuring weight and smooth, cool feel. The window frames and door are made of etched brass. Yes, these are stylish presents that are handmade in Britain.

For what it’s worth, my favorite is the Glasgow School of Art model, measuring in at 11in high, 6.5in wide, 2.5in deep and approximately 7lb. (my mailing address can be provided if you work at Chisel & Mouse…)




Starbucks Gift Card – (at least $50 please, Starbucks is expensive)

There is a measured amount of amusement from me that this item in included on the list … because I don’t drink coffee.


Yes, I am probably one of 7 architects on the planet that doesn’t drink coffee … but that doesn’t keep me from acknowledging the fact that there remains 233,000 other US architects who do drink coffee. If I could get my coffee with enough sugar, cream, make it frozen and serve it in a bowl … well, even I’d take that.

(The 2010 Statistical Yearbook of the United States Census Bureau reports that there are 233,000 architects in the United States for the year 2008 – I don’t have more recent information)



Cool T Shirts for Architects

Architectural T-Shirts    $19 – $29

Yes, this is a shameless plug for my own T-Shirts. For what it’s worth, I have bought (yes, I have to buy my own T-Shirts if I want one) almost every shirt for myself to make sure that they were up to snuff to sell to other people. The Top 5 favorites are: Ar – Architect, As – Architecture Student, Id – Interior Design, Mo – Modern, and Cn – Cad Ninja. What has been surprising is that since I made all these designs in women’s sizes, most of the shirts have been purchased in women’s sizes.



Home Brew Beer Bottles

Home Brewing Kit $98    Bottles $10   Bottle Caps $7   Bavarian Hefeweizen Ingredient Kit $40

This is probably my favorite item on this years list … and I don’t even drink very much beer (and I’m certainly not a connoisseur of handcrafted beers) but this is a great present for a lot of reasons. The personality traits that can be found in most architects lend themselves quite nicely to what it takes to craft home brewed beer. Attention to detail, ability to impart some personal flair, you can design your own beer labels, and the drinking of these batches is a social event – FYI – Architects shouldn’t ever drink by themselves … they might start designing post-modern buildings [shudder]. Last (but not least) is that you have a built in present F O R E V E R if this present takes and your “brewer” stays with the hobby.



Snowman doodle

So Ho Ho Ho! That wraps up the 2012 list of What to get an Architect for Christmas. Shopping for overly-picky, demanding, self-righteous architects isn’t particularly fun but if you follow the items on this list, I can reasonably guarantee you will have success. I’ve tried to make this as easy as possible, if you click on any of the images or descriptions in this post, it will take you to a website where you can buy (or shop further) for the items I have listed.


* that is completely untrue but not completely an impossibly … it was a nice sweater vest.

Bob AIA signature


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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even better stuff from Life of an Architect

  • One more to add. Electric meat smoker. Its one of the best gifts evah. I am a big charcoal smoker fan but having gotten the electric one that can actually sit on the wood deck and take all the pain and suffering out of manning a charcoal smoker for hours I’m not sure I can go back. This would be a gift for carnivores only.

  • Bob,

    I have to say, you had me Cubebot, and had me droo… err, fantasizing at welding class. I have to say though, as a home brewer, I don’t know of a single architect that wouldn’t take pride in creating their own perfect beer. Great suggestion. Though I would recommend buying beer and saving the bottles.

    Thanks for another great post.

  • abo

    There are other Architects who don’t drink coffee? I thought I was alone.

  • femalesoontobearchitect

    So, the sweater vest thing… only for MALE architects. We can’t assume all males here. 🙂 What would a female architect want? A scarf? Well-designed jewelry?

    • yes – sweater vests only for males. And since I have a general rule about supply females with fashion tips, I’ll probably stay away from that one. (that having been said, I know my wife always appreciates a nice scarf)

  • wifeanddaughterofarchitects

    Still trying to understand why the architect tshirt comes in a colour other than black….

  • krzystoff

    Architects are often known for wearing a particular style of clothing, smart but a little overly typical — it probably has more to do with emulating their iconic starchitects than a reflection of personal style. I haven’t personally gone that path, I have my own eclectic look, but neither would I claim to be stylish or fashionable. at least we don’t all look like Mormons I suppose…

    the Starbucks concept is rather odd — if you have a true appreciation for all lifestyle things, so too should your taste in food and drink be on a higher level than the average computer programmer, Starbucks is no better than instant coffee, and aside from the wifi and the communal atmosphere of their cafes, they don’t make coffee worth a nickel. albeit, like you said — you don’t drink coffee, so you can be forgiven. the only coffee gift you should think about it which coffee machine — pods or bean, depending on your usage. these days they are incredibly affordable and save the owner so much in the medium term.

    the Architectural Models is a brilliant idea — these days so few of us have the resources to make them, but we can all appreciate the finest detailing.

    • I have heard some people that Starbucks coffee isn’t the best but I can’t get past the fact that if I walk into any studio (in America at least) there are Starbucks coffee cups EVERYWHERE. My first thought is that I could never have afforded a $5 cup of coffee when I was in college, choosing instead to save my money for food off the roach coach.

    • Jane DeSimone NY Arch

      It really depends on your environment and or where you live.
      I am an Architect in New York and most of us have our own style or are up to date with the latest fashions. This reply pertains to Women Architects.

  • DeWalt is the best cordless Drill on the market it has kept the same battery style for many years, this cannot be said with all those other cordless drills (Makita, Hatachi, Milwaukee, Porter Cable, Craftsman and Bosch. I have had the same cordless 18v drill for more than a decade (14 years) and can find new batteries easily. DeWalt is simply the best cordless drill on the market, that is why it is the chosen tool of most contractors.

  • Ian Robertson

    DeWalt is not quality. It is simply a more expensive Black & Decker relabel that they created because they didn’t want their contractor line associated with their consumer line. The best brands for power tools are Makita, Milwaukee and if on a budget, Porter Cable. Panasonic and Bosch are good for certain tools.

    • All I can say is that for $100 bucks, it had the highest rating/ positive feedback. I myself have a Craftsman and I has worked great for me. I have no doubt there are better lines but at some point cost versus performance figures in

      • Bob- just read this and I will admit that I got the exact same drill for Christmas. Works like a charm but not as heavy duty as the more professional one I inherited which also happens to be a Dewalt. There are different levels of “quality” within the Dewalt brand, While this drill isn’t at the top, it will work for most jobs perfectly.

  • tjcleary

    Hi Bob, great ideas as always. I dunno what Santa will bring me this year but anything involving consumption of either beer or coffee is a surefire bet for me.

    I’m happy to see “Neutra: Complete Works” listed as a suggestion; that’s in fact what Santa brought me LAST year. That $44 pricetag has been around awhile; the original printing you’re referring to, when Taschen brought it out around a decade ago, WAS up there in the $450-ish range…..for a volume that had actual plywood covers and was incredibly large enough & heavy enough that you’d’ve felt like you were lugging around the dictionary from the NY Public Library. Then they realized their market for that was, shall we say, limited, and they came out with this current slightly downsized version (no wood, and the text is a real exercise in squinting). But contains every single page of the original content.

    I wanted to let your readers know there’s another great Neutra book just out (only $30 on Amazon) — “The Neutras, Then & Later”…….a personal anecdotal history by his own, still-thriving-at-86, son/architect/business partner, Dion Neutra. Very visual: lots of photos and great stories, of both a personal and professional nature. Anybody who digs Richard Neutra’s work needs to know about this book.

    • awesome information – thanks for sharing. I will definitely be taking a look at the book you recommended (I am a big Neutra fan).


  • archbhoo

    Nice, very useful, Thanks!… Happy Christmas.

    • Thanks – Happy Holidays to you as well

  • Thankfully, Starbucks serves tea! I’m also a tea drinker but Sbux is not on my list this year. What’s on my list however, is a drill set! And I’m very excited about it!

    • drill sets are worth getting worked up over – I love mine

  • Anne Z.

    me, I just want a Tokidoki Barbie, mib!

    • I’ll admit that I had to look that up … she’s kinda cute 🙂

  • Let me see if I have this right – your wife supervises you when it comes to clothing, but not when it comes to welding! She is a very generous person.

  • I have been looking for a welding class here in Orange
    County NY for a few years. I can find expensive career oriented classes where I
    can spend a few years and several thousand dollars to become a certified welder
    of one type or anther but nothing for the hobbyist/handyman basic level I want….
    if anyone knows of anything.

    • I don’t know about Orange County but the Dallas Community College system has a few “hobbyist” type courses sprinkled in amongst the degree/ certification type courses. Maybe the community college system in your area does as well. At worse, you can find out who the teachers are and see if they will put together the type of class you want in their shop. I’ve done that before.

  • Love the models… I’m particularly drawn to the Cincinnati Union Terminal model shown in the photo above since I lived in Cincy for 10+ years and saw that building so many times. Great list!

    • Thanks Mike! Those plaster models fro Chisel & mouse are pretty sweet.

  • Melanie Perry

    lol, great list Bob, and delivered with an enjoyable flair.

    I can tell my husband is a civil guy and not an archie, because he still refuses to take my fashion advice after all of these years.

    My biggest success is that I finally moved him from track suit bottoms and cargo shorts to ‘big boy pants’ (aka, Carharts), nothing will budge him from the software/hardware/conference swag t-shirts that he lives in, I’m afraid.

    • there is a time and place for swag t-shirts, I have a closet full of them but these days they are used when I mow the lawn 🙂

  • wade

    I’ll see your black sweater vest and raise you a grey cardigan.

    So if an architect doesn’t drink coffee, how does he function during all-nighters? Soda? Caffeine pills? There’s got to be something.

    • I drank diet sodas when I was in College. Now that I am older, I realize that all-nighters are a waste of time and haven’t done one since.

      I’d take that grey cardigan too …

  • Roxanne Button

    Bob, you and I are 2 of the 7 architects on the planet that don’t drink coffee! I love the models from Chisel & Mouse, but I think Santa has already bought my gift 🙁

    Two of the items on the list were also requested by my non-architect husband – the drill and the beer-making supplies. But I’d take either of them myself!

    • I mentioned the Home Brew gift to my wife and she eye-rolled me! I tried explaining to her that this was the sort of gift where I do all the work but everyone around me benefits.

      We’ll see…

  • architectrunnerguy

    Great list Bob. Covers everything from wardrobe to tools to toys to boutique beverages!!

    • Thanks – I try and cover my bases and while I like everything on this list, I don’t need everything on this list. I have a feeling that they will become harder and harder to make.