Finding the perfect holiday gift can be maddening. Is this the color they’d want? Is it something they already have? Is it so last year? What can make the hunt even more difficult is shopping for someone with impeccable (or, at least, very specific) taste — a quality that architects are known for. If you’re stumped about what to get the aspiring Le Corbusier on your list, fear not: We’ve talked to nine architects and designers about the gifts they think other architects would appreciate. Here, their favorite pens for drafting and lamps for sketching.
When thinking about what to gift an architect, a book on the subject might be the first thing that comes to mind. But which to get? Take it from architect Barbara Bestor of Bestor Architecture, who recommends Regarding Paul R. Williams, a book that collects photographs by artist Janna Ireland of architect Paul Williams’s buildings across Southern California. “Williams, who was the first licensed Black architect west of the Mississippi River and who was known as ‘Hollywood’s Architect’, designed houses for Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball, portions of the Beverly Hills Hotel, and the Pearl Harbor memorial,” says Bestor. “I adore Ireland’s intimate photographs, and now they are available in this book.”
If you want to give them something that will come in handy at the sketching table, consider a pen: “Every architect needs a pen that can transform from sketch to writing instantaneously,” says architect Andy Lantz, creative director of design firm RIOS. “These pens do just that and are just stiff, liquid-y, velvet goodness.” We think the punchy orange shade of the pen will liven up any architect’s desk.
If you want to give something a bit sleeker, architect Nicholas Batie suggests this fountain pen: “Lamy fountain pens with refillable cartridges are a classic, and much less expensive, than other fancy pens,” Batie told us.
Your architect won’t be able to sketch without a proper light. Consider this stylish and practical table lamp, which lead designer Julia Marani recommended. “I want this Artemide task lamp that gives warm, bright light,” she told us. “It’s perfect for sketching or drafting at your desk.”
Or maybe you’d like to gift them a light they can take on the go, like this &Tradition x Space Copenhagen number. “This battery-powered lamp can go anywhere, inside or out,” says Bestor. “I like a soft light when dining outside, and this perfectly mimics candlelight or the evening glow of the city in Italy it’s named for.” If they’d rather not use batteries, the lamp can be charged with a USB cord and holds a 12-hour charge.
If you’re shopping for an architect who loves the great outdoors, Lantz recommends these national-park-themed candles, which he says make something of a “travel replacement” for those stuck at home. “As we sit in our at-home offices and dream of future explorations, this candle can take any architect around the world to some of the most awe-inspiring places — Sequoia, Acadia, Arches, Zion, Badlands, and even the Grand Tetons.” We think that the cedarwood and sage scents of these would make them a nice alternative gift for the person who already owns multiple Thymes Frasier Fir candles.
For the green-thumbed architect, consider these colorful herb pots. “Ceramic artist Tracy Wilkinson’s organic ceramic sculptures are incredibly inspiring to me,” says Bestor. “Who doesn’t love an all-natural air freshener in a beautiful handmade container?” Bestor told us that Wilkinson designed this new line of herb pots for the holidays in especially cheerful colors. “The colors are so unique. They really are perfect for any corner of your house or desk,” says Bestor.
“I’m a moderate indoor-tropical-plant aficionado — I think having a lush indoor oasis is a great way to visually escape from the hard edges of city life,” says architect Peter Feigenbaum.
“Generally, I believed fake plants were not intended for use outside of dentists’ offices and truck-stop casinos in Louisiana. But after a beautiful five-foot dracaena plant I bought in the 28th Street Plant District started to turn yellow and wither away, despite receiving rigorously scheduled waterings, I decided I’m ready to go fake!” If you want to follow Feigenbaum’s lead, try a plant from Nearly Natural, a line he says seemed “to go above any previous notions I may have had about the quality and realism of simulated flora.” And while Feigenbaum told us he still plans to go for the real deal most of the time, when it comes to “the big-ticket centerpiece,” he “just can’t stand to watch another $100 plant bite the dust.”
For the architect who knows their way around a kitchen, try a gift that combines form and cooking function, like this Himalayan-salt tray, which Bestor told us she was “coveting” when we first spoke with her about gifts for architects a few years ago. “It is such a fantastic material,” she told us. “It’s stunningly beautiful and stunningly simple — you cook on it, and if you lick it, it tastes like salt!” It’s sure to be the kind of thing your architect will want to leave out on the counter: “It’s a solid slab made of crushed pink salt — ethereal and beautiful and functional too,” says Bestor.
Architect Jacob Segal’s gift suggestion had a similarly culinary bent. “I received a cast-iron skillet for my birthday, and I thought that was a good architect gift,” he told us. “It’s black, it’s an archetype, it’s sort of without design, and architects need to cook more.”
Help your architect make their homemade coffee a bit more like the one from their favorite café with this milk frother — which is sleek enough to leave out in the kitchens of those with discerning taste. It comes recommended by Rebecca Rudolph, co-founder of the design firm Design, Bitches, who says that it has both a cold and hot function and that it “works well with milk alternatives like oat and almond milk.” Plus, “it looks sleek on the counter, is easy to clean, and the best part is it froths the milk while you make your tea or coffee,” says Rudolph.
And if they prefer a glass of beer, Bestor says, “Since we’re all at home more, why not enjoy a drink in iridescent handblown glasses?” Each glass is handblown, and only 200 sets of the glasses were made, making them something of a collectible.
When we spoke to members of f-architecture, also know as Feminist Architecture Collaborative, they told us that this linen beach throw would be appreciated by an architect for its graphic design. “We love this ‘Healing From Capitalism’ linen beach throw, arguably an all-season comfort,” they said. “It’s available on Print All Over Me, a fellow alumnus of New Inc., the incubator initiative of the New Museum.” The designer of the towel, pinar_viola, also makes a pillow version of the textile as well as sweatpants and sweatshirts that are a fun departure from your standard gray sweat suit.
For colder months, try a warm quilted blanket. “My husband bought this for me one Christmas, and it is now the most coveted blanket in the house,” says Rudolph. “It’s super-cozy, beautifully made, and goes with any décor.” The blanket is made from a textile woven in Kurume, Japan, a town which, according to Duluth Trading Company, is “known for its rich history in crafts and manufacturing.”
Catherine Johnson, co-founder of Design, Bitches with Rudolph, suggests this canvas and leather bag that would be just as useful for running errands as it would for toting papers to the office (eventually). “It’s on the pricier end, but it’s made in L.A. by a Black- and woman-owned business,” says Johnson. “Plus, it’s gorgeous and utilitarian — I especially love the marine blue with black leather design.”
Maybe the architect got into puzzles over the past few months — but have they tried 3-D puzzles? This one comes recommended by Bestor, who says that all of Areaware’s Blockitecture puzzles are appealing, but the Garden City one tops her list. The blocks can be rearranged to make high-rise buildings with garden roofs or spread out to make a central (block) park. “It’s a great gift for kids and adults,” says Bestor. We think this would make a perfect gift for the child on your list who loves to look at buildings, or the adult whose WFH setup could use a pleasant (but work-related!) distraction.
And, of course, you could add to the architect’s uniform. “What architect doesn’t need a solid, go-to black T-shirt?” says Lantz. “After searching long and hard for years, this Acne T-shirt is one of a kind and worth the heavy spend.” If the architect in your life already has a drawer full of black T-shirts, Lantz suggests gifting the T-shirt in a more lively color. “Go for the pale pink to liven someone’s workday up — trust me, your architect friends will thank you,” says Lantz. (For those who want to stick with the classic black T-shirt and spend a little less, we suggest consulting our guide to the best black T-shirts for men.)
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