What to Get an Architect for Christmas (2013)

November 21, 2013 — 27 Comments

It’s that time a year again – the highly anticipated “What to get an Architect for Christmas” post! This is the 4th year in a row I have written this article and I must admit, this list is getting better and better each year. Sometimes I get the question:

“Bob, how do you come up with such an incredible list year after year?”

Other than the fact that I am an architect and I have my finger on the pulse of architects savvy enough to be reading my site, I pretty much write down the list I would give my wife and post it here.

Ho, Ho Ho, here are the goods! Feel free to send this post to your loved ones with my blessings, hard to go wrong with the items I culled together this year – just for my wife you!


Keurig K65 Special Edition Gourmet Single-Cup Home-Brewing System

Keurig K65 Single-Cup Home-Brewing System – $129

Most architects are coffee addicts and the few I know who don’t drink coffee (like me) occasionally like a cup of tea. I’m a big fan of making my coffee/ tea to order and despite my limited caffeine intake, I have this system in my house – I love it and I think you will too. In my current office, every mid-afternoon a group of folks get together and walk across the way to a Starbucks to get their afternoon fix … I plan on getting one of these for the office soon so maybe we can get a bit more work done. You can even get a variety of drinks that can satisfy everyone’s palate –  hot chocolate, tea, and of course a multitude of coffees.


Moleskine Cahier Journals

Moleskine Cahier Journal (Set of 3), Extra Large, Plain, Black, Soft Cover (7.5 x 10) – $15

I’m a big advocate of sketching, despite the fact that I am not particularly adept in my own sketching “style”. I get a lot of Moleskine journals as gifts but the one I’ve listed above is my favorite. These journals are small enough so that my “doodles” can fill the page. I also like that these journals have a heavy card stock cover rather than being leather-bound. I personally feel that the really nice ones can be a little intimidating to sketch in – they seem a little precious to me. Since half of my sketches are total clunkers, the cahier journals seem just a bit more forgiving.


Retro 51 Tornado Pencil Bocote

Retro 51 Tornado Pencil Bocote – $52

I already have this pencil but I’ve decided to include it here for the simple reason that it’s cool looking and Retro 51 is a sweet brand. This mechanical pencil is 5 inches long and has a 1.15mm lead (which is approximately the size of a regular pencil lead). The lead is advanced with a simple twist of the top, and there is a huge eraser (although I personally have no use for mine). The body of the pencil is turned from a solid piece of Bocote wood – the graining of which varies from pencil to pencil – making each one unique. Included with this pencil is twelve 1.15 HB lead refills, and six refill eraser tops.


HomeMade Gin Kit

The Homemade Gin Kit – $50

This gift is pretty self-explanatory … homemade gin?!? Yes please. Almost every architect I have ever met has secretly – and not-so-secretly – wanted to be a chef at some time in their life. This gift combines our need to drink, our love of the culinary arts, and our fondness to do our own thing.

Did I mention that you can drink it afterwards? Just making sure you caught that part. Unlike the beer kit I included on last years list which takes forever from when you make it and when you can drink it, the homemade gin kit only takes 36 hours. Plenty of time for trial and error tastings.


Fitbit Zip

Fitbit Zip Wireless Activity Tracker – $50

I saw this the other day and thought it was fun – in a healthy, fun sort of way. Much more than a pedometer, Zip tracks your steps, distance, and calories burned — then automatically syncs the data to your Fitbit account through your computer, select smartphones, and tablets. Whether online or through the Fitbit App, you can set goals and stay motivated to keep on your path to fitness with graphs, badges, and friendly competitions. Check to see how you compare with friends and family and even provide a message to egg them on. Your stats wirelessly upload via computer or select Bluetooth 4.0/Bluetooth Smart devices (like the iPhone 4S), so you will know in real-time when you are close to a goal and when you’ve reached one.


Bose QuietComfort 20 Headphones

Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones – $299

Since I moved out of my private office and now sit in the communal hell-zone with almost every employee in the office, I wear my headphones a lot more often. I can also tell you that everyone else in the office wears their headphones all day long as well. Even though I turn music on, I don’t really listen to it or hear it after a while – it’s really for background noise to block out all the surrounding stimuli and allow me to find my creative center. Having awesome headphones is a must for almost every architect – the fact that these are noise-canceling headphones is just the world’s greatest fringe benefit. I know the price tag is steep – I almost left it off the list for that reason. The truth is that from a value standpoint this is probably the one item on this list that would get the most use … by a mile (or kilometer depending on where you’re located.)

Maxell HP-20 Headphone Extension Cord

Maxell HP-20 Headphone Extension Cord (with adapters) – $8

Just wanted to throw in a headphone extension cord. For less than $10, you can plug in and actually move around your work space without having to carry your player around with you. We all know what happens when you forget your plugged in …

Anker 2nd Gen Astro3 12000mAh External Battery

Anker 2nd Gen Astro3 12000mAh External Battery – $49

This is something that I’ve had my eye on for a while – a portable recharge battery … and the more power, the better. You can follow the link and read all the techno-jargon if you want but the bottom line is that this particular external battery was voted the very best by a nerdy-tech magazine and has enough capacity to charge an iPhone 6 times and large-capacity phones like the Galaxy S4 almost 4 times. I can plug my phone in at the office and in my car so normally I start each day with a 100% charge and finish each day around 70% … but a few times a month as I sit in meeting after meeting, I find myself looking at my phone wondering when I am going to run out of power. And for those architecture students who are at school 32 hours a day, this is a sweet back-up power source. Those of you who use a tablet, this is the device for you.


Mophie iPhone Juice Pack

Mophie Juice Pack Plus External Battery Case for iPhone 5  – $95

The Mophie Juice Pack is a smaller and slicker version of the Anker external battery. It actually fits over your phone becoming almost indistinguishable from your phone and has enough juice to bring your iPhone 5 back from the dead (0% charge to 100%). Pretty straight forward device – it’s the one I want. Unlike the Anker Astro3 – which is a separate device to carry around – with the Mophie you are paying for the packaging and convenience … and it’s still worth it.


Personalized Library Book embosser

Personalized Library Book Embosser – $20

Architects like books … a lot. You can’t go wrong with getting your favorite architect a book as a present, giving them a way to sign it as theirs is also very cool. All of my books have my name on the inside cover page – a practice that developed out of bringing my books up to the office so frequently. While I think I have a respectable library, it’s nothing compared to my business partner, Michael Malone, who seems to have ten’s of thousands of books. He is the only person I’ve seen who has the embosser for his books – and since I’ve seen it, I’ve decided that I want one as well … it’s cool and I don’t want Michael stealing my books. At $20, this is an extremely thoughtful gift.


Speaking of books as a “can’t miss” gift for architects, I decided to ask none other than Michael “I’ve got Ten’s of Thousands of Books” Malone to curate a list of his most favorite books from his library. These are not your run of the mill tomes so I can’t promise that you’ll be able to get them even if you do click on my links – there just aren’t that many copies still floating around out there – good luck.



Le Corbusier Le Grand

Le Corbusier Le Grand [2008]  $135

The most comprehensive book on Le Corbusier ever, supremely beautiful and comprehensively illustrated.


Cosmos Of Light - The Sacred Architecture of Le Corbusier

Cosmos of Light: The Sacred Architecture of Le Corbusier [2013]   $58

Le Corbusier’s religious buildings are exhaustively photographed and studied in one of the most beautiful architectural books ever.


James Frazer Stirling - Notes from the Archive

James Frazer Stirling: Notes From the Archive [2010]  $52

Fascinating view inside The Canadian Center for Architecture’s archive of James Stirling and his career. Vast compendium of materials, helps to understand the process and development of this highly regarded architect.


Fallingwater Rising

Fallingwater Rising [2005]  $20

The best book ever on Wright, his creative process, Edgar Kaufman and Fallingwater period.


Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center

Great Fortune:  The Epic of Rockefeller Center [2004]  $12

America’s best piece of urbanism had a complex origin. This book describes it in full and puts you in awe of what was involved in making this landmark.


Greene & Greene

Greene & Greene [2003]  $31

Exceptional scholarship paired with great writing presents the Greene’s and their remarkable work in a beautifully illustrated package.


Salmela Architect

Salmela Architect  [2005] $32


Invisible Element of Place The Architecture of David Salmela

The Invisible Element of Place  [2011]  $32

Two books, really just one that presents and documents the highly personal work of this American architectural treasure.


Carlo Scarpa

Carlo Scarpa [2013]  $78

The newest and possibly best book on Scarpa by a gifted writer. Lavishly illustrated and beautifully documented.


Louis I. Kahn In the Realm of Architecture

Louis I. Kahn:  In the Realm of Architecture [1997]

The only book on the subject with illustrations powerful enough to evoke the mystery of Kahn’s buildings. Gorgeous to look at and read.


CFA Voysey

CFA Voysey  [1997]  $32

Wonderful biography of a great arts and crafts architect. Well researched, thoughtfully written and beautifully illustrated. Fine work to match a fine career.


If you’ve gone through all of these items and still can’t find something that suits your needs, maybe something from the previous christmas list posts have something –

What to get an Architect for Christmas – 2010

What to get an Architect for Christmas – 2011

What to get an Architect for Christmas – 2012

So there you have it – Merry Christmas from yours truly –

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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  • Ernesto Santalla

    I have used Moleskine sketchbooks for many years and would consider it a thoughtful gift.

  • consider it added.

    I have put newly issued books on the list before and they’re always super expensive (Zumthor’s is $230) and next year it will be reduced down to $50 bucks. Save your money, buy 3 of something else, and get this book next year.

    • TFO

      I hope you’re right Bob. Then I wouldn’t have to ask multiple family members to consider a freaking group gift. But consider that his last monograph from 1999 is still floating around in value at $2K in the marketplace. This guy controls his brand like none other!

      • you might be right about that. I really wanted the Dieter Rams book a few years ago and it plummeted in price (still worth it by the way) same thing happened to the Case Study Houses and the Neutra books … both of which I eventually bought and highly recommend.

  • Jennifer Hilliard

    Topping my list this year, as an Architect, is a Vita_mix. Architecture and breakfast are rarely on the same critical path. I had to borrow my son’s Mophie and it was a life saver, or night saver in this case. Also, I have had Otto made coffee and will concur with that suggestion as well. Happy Holidays Bob!

    • I’ll take you at your word, that Otto coffee maker looks crazy fussy …

      I think we’ve culled out a good list this year, I hope people find it useful!

  • JourneyMart

    Wow, thanks to a great suggest Mophie Juice, Anker 2nd Gen Astro3, Maxell HP-20 Headphone Extension Cord more and more.

  • Paul Mutton

    Great list thx Bob. Can is suggest a great coffee maker – Otto. Looks beautiful, coffee is beautiful, and all without a power plug. Maximum generator of camping envy.

  • Guest

    Well, I like christmas, and I sure do like hoes.
    Great list!

  • franjaserra

    A good fountain pen is another good option..

  • Art

    those great ear bud headphones should come with a sign that says do not disturb! great list!

  • Panglu

    My god, you can just take over the North Pole. I’m writing this down and placing a star next to the personal library embosser.

    • I’m positive that you will be very happy with it

  • Brian Yamamoto

    this is great thank you.

  • Bill Reeves

    Ho. Ho, Ho, I like that.

  • Marcia Kellogg

    Thanks for the great suggestions. My husband is an architect and I got him the stainless paper clip holder last year. This year, it will be the personal library embosser.

    • I know he will like it. With a little exploring, you can get some cool modifications on that stamp – there are loads of options.

    • Eva Byrne Architect

      Yes! Library embosser winging its way to Dublin also!

  • Ian Bass

    It’s inspiring to see David Salmela’s books included as he lives and works in my area–I’ve actually seen some of his work in person. Great post!

    • I haven’t seen any of his work in person myself – you are a lucky man!

  • Courtney Price

    This is a clever and thoughtful list – not just for architects. Great ideas, thanks.

    • you might be particularly interested in the Hoomemade Gin Kit – I’ve already ordered on for me (as a tester of course) so maybe you’ll get to sample my goods