It’s almost that gift-giving time of the year and if you have an architect in your life, you know that getting them a gift is not the most amazing experience since they are offensively specific – but that’s why we’re here. Now in its 12th consecutive year, Life of an architect is putting out the increasingly difficult yet still definitive gift guide for architects, just so you don’t have to figure these things out for yourself. Welcome to Episode 88 “Holiday Gift Guide for Architects (2021)”
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Today we are talking about gifts that you should give to architects, other than money. I have been doing this for a long time – feels like decades, but its humble origins were simply taking my own wish list of items and telling everyone else that what I wanted was good enough for everyone else. Turns out, this is wrong for a lot of reasons – sometimes the gifts were gender-specific and not everyone wants sweater vests as their holiday gift.
Just like last year, Andrew and I had the same categories from which to choose our gift recommendations. Can I tell you first off, I don’t buy that much stuff. I had a hard time trying to remember ANYTHING I bought within the last year, so I went on to my Amazon account and other than books, I bought 4 things – glass water bottles, a super-deluxe mask (and filter) because of Covid, antennae for my Jeep, and yet another pair of headphones that had a noise-canceling microphone on it for meetings once we all got back into the office and literally everyone was on a digital meeting. I am a man of simple needs so what you need to know is that if I liked it well enough to put it on this list, it must be amazing. (Now I’m setting myself up for having to deliver something incredible.)
We are going to do the big reveal to one another and then talk about them – we are going to take turns.
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Best Gift for your Car jump to 5:55
Bob’s Selection – $40
The pandemic and Covid-19 issues are still lingering and I was thinking that running a filter in certainly wouldn’t hurt … but it would definitely help with getting rid of that takeout food funk explosion you might have in your car. Since this particular selection is portable, you could move it with you inside to your desk, or by the couch … wherever. The main takeaway is that it shows you (as the user) to be a thoughtful and considerate person. The person that gives it to you might be thinking that you have odor and germ concerns, and that’s true love if I’ve ever seen it.
Andrew’s Selection – $14
I have used this in my car for several years now and I am not certain I could drive without it. It is the best type of phone holder that I have ever used. I will grant that the magnet plate can be a problem for some phone owners, but it has never really bothered me. My favorite part is the small “footprint” it actually has in my car. I was able to place it in a very precise location to work and hold my phone where I wanted it to be. Excellent in my book!
Best Gift for your Bar jump to 11:12
Andrew’s Selection – $99- $139
I love to pick up craft beer from local breweries. This would be a spectacular tool to make that beer last a bit longer in my fridge. I also have a tendency to go visiting breweries around the state and on my typical travels. I just like craft beers. This carbonated growler just keeps the beer “fresh” for longer and provides that right out of the keg experience. It comes in two sizes and will require the small C02 cartridges and I think is a craft beer lovers must-have bar accessory. When you have this, you can share great and specialty beer with your friends anytime at your home bar.
Bob’s Selection – $27
I like wine, probably less than winos and stay-at-home parents but more than 20-something rugby players. In the 20-something years since I became a fan, my average bottle cost has risen and from time to time, I would like to aerate my wine before consuming it. I live in a wine-middle-management world where I drink nice enough wine to treat it properly but not so much that I have a wine cellar. This aerator above allows me to chill my bottles but skip the decanting process. If you understand what I am saying then this gift is for you.
Best Gift for your Desk jump to 15:26
Bob’s Selection – $800
I actually have this desk (yes – those are my dogs in the picture above) and now that I have been using this desk for 16 months I can safely say that this is a desk worth having and spending some money on. It is a perfectly fine desk if all you need is a large horizontal surface and if that is the only requirement, a sheet of MDO and some sawhorses might be in your future. This is a Stand/Sit desk and boasts a work surface of over 70″ long and 30″ deep (the smaller 53″ x 29″ classic is $300 less) which is an appropriate size for an architect. You can see a lot more photos when I originally wrote about this desk (A Proper Desk for an Architect) and when I decided to add this to my gift guide this year, I emailed Autonomous and they agreed to give me a 4% discount that I could pass along (just use the code ROBERT04). If I were you, you could use those savings to buy the cable management tray and get a mediocre bottle of wine to drink while assembling your new desk.
Andrew’s Selection – $40
This shelf puts your monitors in the proper elevation height for someone like me who is a little bit taller. I have always had trouble with the line of sight when at my desk. With this, I can remove those brick samples or books that I have been using for years to lift up my monitors. The ability to have some space underneath is also very nice. I could shift my keyboard under while I draw at my desk or just store other necessities underneath the shelf. This one is large enough to accommodate multiple monitors and still have some room left on the sides. I enjoy the metal and wood materials that give a bit more panache!
Best Gift for your Kitchen jump to 28:50
Andrew’s Selection – $18 and $15
I love burgers! This is a set of kitchen tools that will help you create the best burgers. The cast-iron press is so you can cook the delicious smash burgers and get those nice crispy edges and then you can use the melting done to get that cheesy gooey loveliness! I bring these are a set because I think you need them both to create the best at-home burger experience. I think they pair best with a cast iron griddle or your outdoor griddle (like the Cuisinart shown or a Blackstone). Burgers need cheese and they need it to be melty. This duo will get you right there!
Bob’s Selection – $80
Did you know that I wanted to be a chef if being an Architect didn’t work out? Of course, you did … so when I tell you that I know that most architects like to cook, I am saying it with confidence that having a 6 quart heavy enameled cast iron dutch oven is a gift that will stay in use for decades. From cooktop to oven to table, it is a versatile gift and unlike straight-up cast iron, is a snap to maintain. Can you just imagine all the delicious stew’s and soups the person you give this to will be making and that you get to eat?!? This is what is known as a “win-win” situation my friends.
Best Gift – Missed Opportunity jump to 33:55
Bob’s Selection – $350
I have several of these models in my home and office and I still love them years later. Originally included on my 2012 gift guide, I’ve had mine for almost 10 years so I am speaking from personal experience that these models are extremely well made and I still like the vibe they add to my house. I have a lot of architects come over to my house (humble brag) and almost all gravitate to my collection of architecture books and I use these models to ceremoniously used to break up the endless runs of books. It takes about 15-seconds before people start asking questions about these models. The first question is always “Did you make these?” and I tell them “
Yes” “No, I got them from Chisel & Mouse, a UK design studio started in 2011 by Robert and Gavin Paisley, brothers who gave up software development to create miniature versions of architectural landmark buildings as well as cityscapes. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, they can make a custom plaster model of one of your own projects.
Andrew’s Selection – $40 to $65
I first posted about this set in our 2019 Gift Guide. The art series is one in which some well-known pop-art artists create work inspired by FLW’s work. They just had a new showing in November 2021 that added more prints to the collection. The great thing about this series of prints is that there is a wide variety of styles. So there is most likely something for every architect on your list. Most of the prints are 24×36 sized and they are printed on high-quality paper and are limited edition print runs. This means they will sell out at some point. I have several from the first show and am looking forward to adding a few to my collection from this new edition of prints. I have a love for screen-printed pop-art and this ups it by adding architecture to the content.
I have also been told that the Book Darts from 2020 are a must-have! I cannot agree more and if you missed them they are a great inexpensive gift!
Best Gift Under $20 jump to 41:01
Andrew’s Selection – $15
I have owned this lunch kit for about 4 months now. I must say that now that I am going back into the campus for my teaching I like to have this as a way to carry my own lunch. It shows is as a salad bowl, which is great for that also, but I have used it to pack up all kinds of lunches. It is also awesome for leftover pasta! The large size and the multiple compartments make it a great way to organize and keep all your edibles separated until it’s time for lunch! This is available in several color options and it is well constructed and seems like it will last a while. This is another gift that comes with my seal of approval due to my ownership and use.
Bob’s Selection – $5
I can’t tell you how I found these book stickies, I’m sure it was 30 or 40 random rabbit holes I was exploring but nonetheless, here they are. Created by Duncan Shotton, a British designer, artist, and inventor, he does product, packaging, graphic and user interface design. We all know that you should never fold over the corner of the page to mark your place so express yourself and have some fun with it. Aliens, King Kong, Godzilla, penguins … there’s a style here that’ll brighten everyone’s day.
Best Gift Under $100 jump to 45:10
Bob’s Selection – $75
I don’t even care if you own any plants – this is known as a “cool thing” and deserves a place in your home. The only way this watering can could be any cooler is when someone “accidentally” catches you using it. A word of caution – if you are buying this for a single friend of yours, please be mindful that if someone sees this in their house, there is a 10/10 chance that they will start dating. If the act of watering takes place as I mentioned, they’ll skip straight to the nuptials. That’s how cool this is.
Andrew’s Selection – $65-$80
With the recent events in our world, this one seems to be a no-brainer in many ways. But also there is not ever a really good way to clean your phone. I do not own this now, but I have it on my list. It is essentially a UV light sanitizer that you can place pretty much any pone into so it gets “de-germified”.The company has been making these units for years and this I version 3. They also have several other models, but this is the one under $100. If you like the idea of having a clean and germ-free phone, this may be the best gift for you or that person in your life. I tend to be a bit of a clean freak-obsessed person a little anyway and this just helps that tendency.
Best Tech Gift jump to 47:52
Andrew’s Selection – $600
This is a gift with a big price tag, but I think one that can provide some cool results. I know we had a drone on our list just last year, but his one is a mini drone. With the smaller size, I think comes a level of more usefulness. You can shove this kit into your backpack along with all your other stuff and always have it at the ready. This aspect alone is the reason I think this one is so great; you can carry almost all the time. It is made by DJI which is a leader in drone products and so you know the cameras and tech are going to be solid. It has a similar set of functions to later models and you are not missing out due to its diminished size. It just seems like this one can live a more portable life with all your other stuff. This set comes with extra that will be handy and keep you in flight. You could never leave home without it and always be ready to drone!
Bob’s Selection – ($1,250 iPad Pro+$112 pencil+$243 keyboard)
Yeah, yeah, I can hear people saying “Bob, everyone wants an iPad and they’ve been out for years … not really providing any value with this item.” You might be true but the difference is that I think I am prepared to but this exact setup for myself and potentially leave my sketchbooks and 8,000 weekly mediocre pens behind and that alone will save me dozen’s of dollars. Since this is a lot of money, you have to make it more than a 1-trick tool and that’s why I added the Apple pencil and the Magic keyboard. Pretty confident I will have to get this for myself.
Best Gift for a Young Architect jump to 53:17
Bob’s Selection – $10
For those of you that know me, or at least follow my Instagram feed, you will know that I typically sketch using Sharpie pens and I put all these sketches in Moleskine sketchbooks. As previously evidenced by putting an iPad on this year’s list, I am finally conceding that I should migrate to a more digital format. If you have an iPad, or like me plan on getting one, the drawing app of choice is going to be Procreate. There are a few others that are worth considering but this is the one that I am going to hang my hat on. I have asked some of my friends who use their iPads extensively and all of them, and I do mean ALL OF THEM, recommend using Procreate … and that is good enough for me.
Andrew’s Selection – $140
This one is a must-have for those days in the field. One of the nice elements of this specific device is that it can get 330 ft of measurement. That is often a critical issue when measuring large spaces. Many of the basic models tend to top out around 150 ft. Also since this is a Leica brand you know it should be of high quality and probably has a solid laser used for its measuring. I always have a laser tool with me any time I am in the field whether it’s for existing conditions or during construction visits. A tool that every architect should have so best to get it earlier in your career.
Best Gift for a “Seasoned” Architect jump to 54:30
ALESSI La Stanza dello Scirocco Fruit Holder designed by Mario Trimarchi
Bob’s Selection – $75
The truth is that you could just go visit the Alessi store on Amazon and sort through all sorts of cool stuff but this is the sort of gift that I would get my sister who has everything she ever wanted and then some. My goal when buying her a gift has zero to do with the cost, but focused on the design aspect of the gift. This bowl epitomizes something that pretty much everyone who is a designer, or anyone who appreciates something nicer than a plastic bowl, in which to put on their counter for the holding of things that need holding (fruit and mail included).
Andrew’s Selection – $35
I think that every architect needs a nice fountain pen. But I feel that maybe they are better served on someone who is more “seasoned“. I like to think it is a tool more likely to be appreciated and used by those who have been in the professional bit longer. I have several of these pens and I really like the inking system that allows you to buy either disposable refills or use a refillable system. I prefer the refillable over disposable but this set gives you both!
Best Gift Nobody has Heard of jump to 62:17
Bob’s Selection – $31
Let me just acknowledge that this is a doo-dad. Other than sitting in your bookcase on top of your artfully arranged books, this sculpture does not serve a purpose other than providing some whimsey and curated “grooviness”. I am focused here on the rabbit but there are others (cat, crocodile, and hippo) and if you broaden your search to include planters, you can add giraffe and lion to that list.
Zupa Grafika Paper Models: Brutal East, Brutal East II, Brutal Britain, and Modern East
Andrew’s Selection – $25-$35
Ok. These are fun little paper model series of books created by a couple of designers out of Poland who formed ZupaGrafika. The company makes several other items, but these caught my eye. They have several more in the series and can be found on their site here. They are just fun and inexpensive and have some architectural flair to them. While I know these are not long-term pieces of craft, I do think they can offer some fun times and be a small element for your desk or shelf. The group seems to be making more versions each year.
Architecture Books jump to 64:39
Everyone knows that architects love books and tend to buy them whenever they can. Most of us are not lucky enough to have a good architectural bookstore in our town, so we rely upon companies like Amazon to get us the books we crave. Over the last 30 years, I have been adding to my own collection – but I don’t have the book budget to get every pretty picture book that comes out. Rather than list an endless stream in today’s post, I set up a book list that I am constantly modifying so that the most relevant books I can recommend are available. I have every single one of the books on this list and I can personally tell you that each is worth owning. This year’s books list has over 40 books on it and I would venture a guess that your architect has at least half of these already.
I too have a list of complied books from my personal library. These are most of the classic books or ones that provide me with inspiration, reference, or guidance in my tasks of many architectural pursuits. This may be working on projects, creating lectures for teaching studio, or my various other tasks related to architecture and design. I will admit there will be some overlap with Bob and his list because let’s face it some books are classics for a reason. But I am certain there are some additional books in my list that are specific to my interests and tastes so you can get some variety.
On My Desk
Stuff that is on my desk is a constant consideration – things like sketchbooks, desk light, pens and markers, cutting boards – everything.
If sketchbooks, pens, pencils, rolls of trace paper – typical architect supplies, I’ve got you covered. This ongoing list (titled Pencils/Pens + Sketchbooks) is curated every time I find something new that I decide is worth using.
Would you rather? jump to 66:45
Would you rather look like Santa Claus all year long or dress like an elf for the month of December?
There are rules clearly needed for this one but I suppose it’s up to you to define your parameters. In Bob-Land, you don’t have to put on weight to look like Santa Claus but I think white hair and beard are mandatory. If you think that’s bad, yellow tights, a green waistcoat, and pointy shoes that have bells on the end are mandatory for the elves.
088: Holiday Gift Guide for Architects (2021)
Ho-Ho-Ho and we are done. After twelve years, I am feeling pretty good about the content of this year’s list, and other than 1 (or 3) gifts of mine, this is a cost-friendly collection of architect-approved gifts. We put this list out 2-weeks earlier than normal so that you have plenty of time to deal with the shipping issues and get these gifts wrapped and under the tree (or wherever you put your holiday gifts). If you feel that we have missed the mark, feel free to search through any of the other 11 years’ worth of guides I’ve put together (sweater vests, in particular, can be found here).
Cheers and Happy Holidays!
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