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What to Get an Architect for Christmas [2019]

Life of an Architect Podcast

What to Get an Architect for Christmas [2019]

By Bob Borson, FAIA | November 25, 2019

It’s that holiday time of the year and if you are lucky enough to have an architect in your life, and you are wondering what to get this special someone for Christmas, you’ve come to the right place. Now in its 10th consecutive year, I’m feeling pretty confident that the Life of an Architect “What to Get an Architect for Christmas” is the longest-running gift guide for architects in existence. One advantage of having such a streak is that picking new gifts for this list is getting harder and harder and as a result, we have to work harder to come up with worthwhile gifts … which means you are getting top-notch attention to detail.

There are currently 26 items on this year’s list and the options and price points are all over the place. If you are looking for something big, small, really inexpensive, etc. we’ve got you covered. In addition, Andrew Hawkins and I, for the 2nd year in a row, made this a podcast topic so that you could listen to us justify why we made the selections we made. And if just hearing us talk about the items shown below wasn’t enough to entice you, I will confess that we enjoyed some holiday cocktails during the recording just to put us in the proper holiday frame of mind.

So let’s get to it. This is the list of What to Get an Architect for Christmas – 2019.

Bob: Timbuk2 – Foundry Pack [9:48 mark]
Let’s be honest … this is the sort of backpack a cool person would wear, and since I like to think of myself as a cool person, but will readily concede that I am not currently a cool person, this might just be the thing I need to push me over the edge.


Andrew: Case Crown 13″ Campus Horizontal Messenger Bag [13:13 mark]
I own this one so I can attest to its good qualities. This is a smaller messenger bag that holds a fair amount of items. I manage to keep my 13″ iPad, 3 soft sketchbooks and plenty of pens. The outer shell is a waterproof soft nylon-ish skin and the strap has a nice cushion. I can wear this one all day and not have a backache!


Bob: Dornburg Owls [16:10 mark]
Just let me put this out there right away … I have two of these in my house and EVERY SINGLE PERSON who has ever seen them thinks that they are the coolest thing ever, and that’s even before they hear the story of what they are or why I have them. These are known as the “Dornburg Owls”, originally designed and crafted by Heiner Hans Körting, one of the potters of the Bauhaus workshop established in Donbury. Heiner Hans Körting’s son Ulrich still runs the Dornburg studio and you too can own one of these super cool ceramic (or keramik if you’re German) owls for only 30€ plus shipping as of this writing. What a steal and I can basically guarantee that is you go this route, this will be a long-treasured object. You can go to the Ceramic Studio in Beurgel website and order your vey own original piece of Bauhaus history. (If you need help figuring out the site just let me know)


Andrew: FLW Art Print Series [22:25 mark]
I came across these due to my slight obsession with screen print art work. This set has some architectural flare to them. While I hate to be cliche and have FLW as the subject matter, these are fantastic art prints. So even if you are not the biggest FLW fan, these are still pretty darn cool as works of art also. There is a varied selection and they are of high quality. Also this site has lots of other great art for sale.


Bob: Food Dehydrator [25:40 mark]
Only because I like to fiddle with things on Christmas day, and possibly because I buy a LOT of beef jerky as a snack for my daughter, I am thinking that this would not only be a fun present to receive, it’s a practical gift as well. Will I dehydrate fruits and toothpaste? (you have to listen to the podcast to understand that comment) Maybe. I’ll definitely be making all sorts of jerky and since this gift directly benefits my kid, I’m thinking I know what she’ll get me for Christmas.


Andrew: Smart Air Fryer [31:48 mark]
To be honest, I love fried food. I am certain I eat more of it than I should for a person of my age and I should know better. This might make the food I love to eat a tiny bit less bad. This air fryer is a large one and is also “smart” in the sense that it can be controlled from a phone or even Alexa. I really enjoy the sleekness of the design and the added bit of technology.  It also can do several different operations beyond just air frying. So it seems to be a great option for some healthier french-fried potatoes.


Bob: Graco Magnum 262800 X5 Stand Airless Paint Sprayer [36:05 mark]
I have a lot of tools – almost enough that you would think that I am a full-time contractor. I even have a lot of “painting” gear, but I don’t have a sprayer and as a result, I have to hand roll and brush everything like a caveman. There are a handful of projects that I would really like to tackle at my house and the only thing standing between a serious weekend do-it-yourself result and an “I paint millwork for a living” result is a proper airless paint sprayer.


Andrew: August Home Smart Lock [40:18 mark]
This is another bit of technology for the home. Just like my fryer, this one can be controlled by the phone. The locking system fits over your existing door hardware and then is connected to your home network. It can be opened remotely with the phone and has an auto-lock and unlock features based on phone proximity. Something like this could save me from time to time when I forget to leave my door unlocked for services or when my kids forget their keys also.


Bob: Bose SoundLink Revolve+ Portable Bluetooth 360 Speaker [44:28 mark]
I have included some sort of headphone or speaker on this gift guide list probably 50% of the time because I like having music playing pretty much all the time. What makes this speaker worth getting when you already have a half-dozen other portable speakers laying about the house? The 360° speaker is way … and it makes all the difference in the world. In fact, if I was still in  an office of 11 people, I would consider making this the official “Small Architecture Firm Speaker.”


Andrew: Retro Arcade Game [46:46 mark]
Ahhhh nostalgia. This is just something I have wanted for as long as I can remember. While you can find an original arcade game, they are often finicky and always expensive. This option here allows for there to be multiple games in one unit and it is a great replica of the original. The size is not overbearing either as this one is not the full size of the arcade version, but about 75% scale. So it is still playable in the standing position but won’t eat up real estate in your home. I think you might even want a few of them as this company has several different games in their line up.


Bob: The reBoard recycled plastic cutting board
Nothing says “Merry Christmas, I  love my planet” more than a recycled plastic cutting board. Is this a boring gift? Hell no. Made with recycled plastic and renewable sugarcane, this bold collection of dishwasher-safe cutting boards uses zero virgin plastic and is one step towards a more sustainable kitchen. The fact they aren’t “just white” will add some style points as well.


Andrew: 2019 Lego Sets
Another set of nostalgia here. AS an architect with a childlike streak, I still love Legos and all they can create! And I can build these types of items with my daughter. This is a 20th Anniversary Edition of “Friends” Lego set. It recreates the ever-present Central Perk coffee house that the crew spent waaay to much time in during the show. I just like the fact that it has all of the cast, its a set replica of the set, and it just makes me smile. Another set not shown here is the “Stranger Things” set from this year that is also very awesome. If your architect is a bit more geeky, they may find that set more to their liking. Check it out!


Bob: Work of Mackay Lyons Sweetapple Architect: Economy as Ethic
I recently received this gift from an awesome friend of mine and let me tell you, it’s an amazing book and every architect on the planet will like it … so go buy it.


Bob: Ehrlich Yanai Outside-In: New California Modernism
I  put this book on the list because I want it. Badly. It’s books like this one that makes this Texan wish he was still designing houses in California.


Bob: The Modern A Frame
A-Frame houses have always been cool when done well. In fact, I would like to design and own my own  A-Frame house but since I don’t see that happening anytime soon, I will fill my soul with this book of cool A-Frame houses.


Andrew: 100 Ideas That Changed Architecture
As I move into teaching more, I find books like this useful in refreshing my mind about some of the basic ideas about architecture. This one looks good because it covers lots of territory from materials to design ideas to construction techniques.


Andrew: Arata Isozaki
The 2019 Pritzker Prize winner. Not much else necessary to say. I think if an architect reaches this pinnacle, they should be in your library.


Andrew: Bauhaus Architecture 1919-1933
With the 100 year anniversary coming up, this looks like just the book to renew your knowledge and interest in the project of the Bauhaus. This book focuses on the architecture that was spawned by the movement.


Bob: Le Corbusier – The Built Work
I am a Le Corbusier fan and I try to include a Corbu book whenever a good one comes out. I have this book – actually received it as a gift last year, and it is definitely worth adding to your collection.


Andrew: A Life Spent Changing Places: Lawrence Halprin
This is a landscape architect whose work I fell in love with during my education. I have had the ability to visit several of these works during my life and they are all spectacular. He often creates spaces that are very “architectural” but also emulate nature in a modern way. Just great stuff!


Copic markers – starter + Copic marker grey set + Copic warm grey
I am making the switch to Copic markers … it’s been decided. I have been doing my research and paying a lot of attention to the equipment other people who I admire use and pretty much 100%  of the time, they use Copic markers. Since I don’t want to go crazy right out of the gate, I have put together what I think is a reasonable assortment of colors … mostly warm and cool greys with just a slight nod towards some color.


Sakura Pigma Micron Pens
I have pretty much included Sharpie Fine and Sharpie Ultra Fine pens on my stocking stuffers list for the last 9 years … but not this year. While I love how black the ink is and just how easily the ink flows from those pens, as I step up my attempts to become a better sketcher, I have to acknowledge the pens put out TOO much ink and my sketches are becoming muddy whenever I try and add some detail. I put the call out for recommendations and these Micron pens were pretty much the runaway favorites.


Winsor & Newton : Professional Watercolour : Lightweight Metal Sketchers Box Set : 24 Half Pans (24 Colors Set)
Are you starting to detect a theme to my stocking stuffers? Yep … I want to start adding some watercolor washes to my work because a) it looks great, and b) it can make an ordinary sketch look a lot better than it really is, and c) it looks great. I know I said that last one twice, it deserved it.


Field Artist 6.5 in. x 6.5 in. Square Watercolor Journal, Hardbound with 80 pgs. 200 GSM, Cold Press Paper
The last part of my themed stocking stuffers is a square journal with paper thick enough to stand up to my watercolor washes. Once again I asked for Life of an Architect readers to let me know what sort of sketch journal they liked and while the results were pretty varied, 200-250lb paper came up. As far as the shape of the journal goes, I prefer to have something larger than tiny, but smaller than you might expect, the square shape is a bonus for me because I like to frame my sketches on the page and this format works nicely for me.


Architectural Stickers
In case you didn’t know it, stickers are back and more popular than ever. The website RedBubble is a fun site to play around on and there are approximately 7,698,532,299 items on there that you can look at. If you really have your game handled up, you can even make your own stickers at pretty reasonable prices. On the chance that you simply want something fun to round out your stocking stuffer, I have you covered with some stickers (pun intended). From time to time I will order a bunch of these stickers up and will bring them to events and hand them out to people. They’re inexpensive and look good on a laptop or a car bumper.


Architectural T-Shirts
If stickers aren’t your thing, maybe T-Shits are … and here are just a few from my own personal collection.  A long time ago I decided I wanted some architectural t-shirts and almost all of the ones I found online unilaterally stunk, so I thought I would make some for myself since the act of making your own t-shirt is ridiculously easy and I apparently don’t like sitting around and relaxing so I spend my free time doing stuff like making T-Shirt Designs.

Hypothetical  [50:25 mark]

In keeping with today’s holiday theme, we decided to take on a hypothetical question with a Christmas theme to it … which we lovingly refer to as “The Scott Calvin”

"It’s early Christmas day and you discover Santa Claus is in your house leaving gifts behind. In your excitement, you scare Santa who passes away from fright! You are now presented with the option of  putting on the Santa suit and becoming Santa … or do you simply push the Santa suit under the sofa and go back to bed?"

Maybe because Andrew and I both look a little like Santa Claus (for different reasons – hah!) we both thought we would put on the suit and take on the role of becoming Santa Claus … but is that actually a good thing for anybody involved?

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 will have something you’re looking for –

What to get an Architect for Christmas – 2018
What to get an Architect for Christmas – 2017
What to get an Architect for Christmas – 2016
What to get an Architect for Christmas – 2015
What to get an Architect for Christmas – 2014
What to get an Architect for Christmas – 2013
What to get an Architect for Christmas – 2012
What to get an Architect for Christmas – 2011
What to get an Architect for Christmas – 2010

That wraps up the 2019 list of ‘What to get an Architect for Christmas‘ gift guide. I can reasonably guarantee that you’ll have success if you use the items on this list as a guide – since these are all items that I want, you can conclude that your overly picky architect will like these items as well. I’ve tried to make this as easy as possible, and if you click on any of the images or descriptions in this post, most will take you to a website where you can buy (or shop further for less amazing options) than the items I have listed.

Cheers, Happy Holidays, and Ho Ho Ho!!!


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