10 Best Architecture Gifts Ever

What to Give Besides Praise

Cat Sleeping With a Paw on an Open Pop-Up Book
The Best Gifts Ever. Image by Catherine MacBride/Getty Images (cropped)

You can buy anything for anybody these days. That doesn't help us choose. Here are some suggested gifts for architects and builders, new homeowners and old house rehabbers, and anyone with a fascination for buildings and design. Some of the gifts are serious, some are comical or unusual, and check out the gifts you can eat! You'll know you've found the perfect present when you are tempted to buy an extra — for yourself.

01
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Architecture Trips

People queuing by Pyramide du Louvre in Paris. The glass pyramid was designed by I.M.Pei
Travel to the Louvre in Paris Is Not Your Only Choice. Photo by Harald Sund/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Give the gift of learning. Treat your loved one with a museum pass or guided tours to great buildings around the world. Architectural Advenures is the special travel program of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), so you know their tours are led by professionals. As such, expect to pay the price.

All travel does not have to break the bank, however. In fact, travel can be the most romantic gift ever. "For our anniversary, my husband treated me to a night in a converted lighthouse," writes a friend named Angelica. "We stayed at the East Brother Light Station in Point Richmond, California. We went there by boat, toured the lighthouse, ate a huge dinner, and drank champagne."  Some travel you'll never forget.

An architect may agree that a seaside vacation is the right ticket anytime. An appreciation of nature gets the cobwebs out of the professional head filled with designs. And for the kids or grandkids? The Road Scholar Intergenerational programs will let you give the gift of travel — and you go along, too.

young adult man in red shirt affixing a spire to the top of a lego skyscraper
Lego Enthusiast Rocco Buttliere at Bricklive in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images (cropped)

There's a word for the LEGO master who has already run through the LEGO Architecture Series Kits. The AFOL is officially an Adult Fan of LEGO, and the passionate AFOL builder has more options than complex kits of iconic buildings. Design your own. Build cities. Go see the movie. More »

03
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Apple Cookie & Chocolate Company

toolbox filled with chocolate and cookies
Grand Toolbox of Treats from Apple Cookie & Chocolate Company. Photo ©2016 Jackie Craven

This Pennsylvania-based company has the right idea — consumable gifts like chocolate T-squares and protractors packaged in a 7-inch blueprint tube. They'll make a batch of chocolate chip cookies and put them in an empty paint can or tool box. The concept is in the packaging, so everything's a bit pricey. They have "architectural themed" gift, but they also sell chocolate bolts with real nuts (get it? nuts and bolts), chocolate CFL light bulbs and  incandescent bulbs filled with cookies and tons of individual chocolate pieces (shaped like windows, drill bits, rebar — you name it) that you can order in bulk.  Every item is inventive and fun. "Designed for every industry & every sweet tooth," claims their little catalog, which you can view online.  We bet you can't eat just one.

armless leather chair
Barcelona Chair in the Lobby of a New York City Restaurant. Photo © Jackie Craven

The world's great architects didn't just design buildings -- they also created chairs, tables and sofas. Several companies offer reproduction furnishings by Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, Eileen Gray, and other designers. Explore our listing of famous chairs just to get an idea of historic designs. More »

Woman looking at digital rendering on computer screen
DIY Design. Photo by Mint Images - Tim Pannell/Getty Images

Computer Aided Design or CAD programs for professionals can be overly complicated, but there are plenty of simple computer programs geared for home hobbyists. Download these applications and spend the holidays creating easy floorplans, landscapes, and 3D images — there's probably an app for that. Also, don't forget the 3D printer — as prices come down, these machines will become the new plaything for innovative design experiments. More »

Detail of Frank Lloyd Wright lighting added to the Rookery Building's skylit lobby atrium
Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie School Light from 1905 at the Rookery Building. Photo By Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives Collection/Getty Images

There's no limit to the items made with Frank Lloyd Wright designs. Shop for ties, cuff links, pens, business card cases, stationery, coasters, paper weights, and mouse pads. More expensive are home furnishings that reproduce Prairie School style lighting, chairs, tables, and even paint colors. An architect may be insulted with this stuff as gifts — after all, architects tend to be competitive with each other — but the Frank Lloyd Wright gift industry is booming, so find the right audience. More »

07
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Magazine Subscriptions

Designer Giorgio Armani poses in his New York apartment on the cover of the April 2002 Special New York Issue of Architectural Digest
Designer Giorgio Armani on the Cover of Architectural Digest. Photo by Architectural Digest/Getty Images (cropped)

Frank Lloyd Wright wrote a famous article for the Ladies Home Journal. Gustav Stickley changed the face of American architecture with his little publication called The Craftsman. Magazines have been the siren for design ideas for decades. Does your gift receiver have a special fondness for the glitz and glamour of the rich and famous? Maybe a subscription to Architectural Digest would be welcomed. Is your special person a bungalow lover? Give a subscription to American Bungalow magazine. For every architectural interest there is a publication — and most come in both print and digital formats. Don't forget foreign publications — a gift of Casabella could be given with Italian language lessons.

 

08
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Paper Print Notebooks and e-Books

opened print book displayed on black stand
Fabio Novembre: Design-Architecture. Photo by Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images

Many famous and not-so-famous architects have published their own books with their own works and their own philosophies. If you're trying to convince or expose a friend or acquaintance to someone you like or admire, gift-giving is a great opportunity.

Princeton Architectural Press has a rich history of specializing in interesting books and notebooks, including the Grids and Guides series of notebooks, notepads, and pencils for visual thinkers. Their Grids and Guides Red Notebook sold on Amazon is one of their best sellers.

People who love skyscrapers will be awed and inspired by glossy photo books of the world's tallest buildings. Many skyscraper books will focus on one historic trend, such as Classical, Art Deco, Expressionist, Modernist, and Postmodernist buildings. But if skyscrapers are not an interest, try gift books for castle lovers. Surely no work of architecture is more photogenic than a castle. These lavish books are filled with lush photos of castles and castle-like structures from medieval to modern times.

For the more serious minded, a seasoned architect may enjoy a book about a town with interesting but unfamiliar buildings. New ideas are always appreciated.

illustration, shades of grey skyscrapers, red letter film title within buildings
Movie poster by Boris Konstantinovich Bilinsky of "Metropolis" Directed by Fritz Lang, 1926. Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images (cropped)

Since the dawn of Hollywood, high rises have played leading roles in the movies — from the 1926 Metropolis to the latest Blade Runner movie. If you're not a fan of film fiction, check out our lists of documentaries—Movies About Architects and Movies About Architecture. More »

Cat Sleeping With a Paw on an Open Pop-Up Book
Cat Sleeping With a Paw on an Open Pop-Up Book. Image by Catherine MacBride / Moment / Getty Images (cropped)

If you think pop-up books and coloring books are just for children, check out these sophisticated titles. With detailed artwork and complex "paper engineering" these fascinating activity books are sure to delight any involved reader.

Lasting Suggestions

"No, no, no!" an architect friend tells us. "This list is better described as gifts people think architects like. These are the gifts we open and are frustrated by. I can't think of a single architect who would rather have say, a Frank Lloyd Wright popup book from Costco, than a lesser known book that is relevant to their particular practice or research interests. The point is that you should ask them what they like, specifically, then make an appropriate selection. The same goes for architecture vacations, or furniture, or anything else listed here. Even better, give them something that has nothing to do with their profession altogether, but that fits another of their interests, like camping gear or western novels."

For the homeowner, a treasured space can turn into a work of art. Call your local arts organization to locate an artist who will sketch or paint an original house portrait. Or, hire a photography studio to process a photo of the house onto canvas.

For the professional, the best gift for an architect is praise for his done work, and if it's publicly acknowledged, there is nothing more appreciated. More »