As architects, we can be a difficult group to shop for. While we love a warm pair of socks as much as the next person, when it comes to vocation specific gifts, we tend to be particular.
Numerous guides, including one from our very own Noah for Architect Magazine, will advise you on the best presents for your dearest designers. But we’re nothing at EDR if not unconventional, so in the dual Holiday spirit of both reflection and consumerism, we asked some of our designers to look back at their fondest gifts from Holiday seasons past.
I really love puzzles. One year, my dad gave me a custom puzzle, and I didn’t know what it was of–it just came in a plain cardboard box. And I had to put the whole thing together to figure out what the picture was of. It ended up being a scene from this vacation that we went on together.
I think the reason I like puzzles so much, and why they’re such an integral part of my thought process is because I think of everything in the piece first. And then you understand the whole. And it’s a really beautiful thing when you see all these pieces coming together to form that whole. So that’s why I’ve gotten really focused on building facades, and building science, and the details of things. Because buildings are puzzles, and it’s about coming together.
So now every time I start a project I go back to that puzzle and think “well, I don’t know how this is going to end up,” but I just go piece by piece and slowly you start to see it take shape. I also think with puzzles you have to commit. Because you don’t figure it out by just spending an hour on it. You have to spend forty hours on it, and then maybe you get it.
One year, instead of getting me a physical gift, my aunt said she wanted to get me something I could learn. She has always been an unbelievable craftsperson–she needlepoints, she knits, she makes all of these amazing things–which has never been my strong suit. So one year she gave me knitting lessons, and if I’m being honest, I wasn’t really sure I was going to like it. I thought maybe it would turn out super frustrating or be especially time consuming. But neither turned out to be true!
In fact, the exact opposite, as I ended up finding it very relaxing and small projects actually go relatively quick. A lot of the time in architecture, you work on something for a very long time before you see the end result. So there’s something especially gratifying working on something in a smaller scale. I make little scarves, hats, or tiny finger-less mittens. And sometimes I’ll just create samples, testing out different knit patterns that I find online, that are really just swatches, but it’s exceptionally satisfying to really immerse yourself in them and think about patterns without some end goal. You can just enjoy the process and quickly see the fruits of your labor. I think it’s similar to why people like to cook. And of course, it’s also just super useful–although sometimes not in this climate!
So I definitely love the New York City Graphics Standards Manual. It’s one of my favorite things of all time and just really interesting. It’s basically the standard for how design solves problems. New York had all these confusing, mismatched subway signs, all in different typefaces and colors, and they just standardized it. So New York City suddenly, in one clean sweep, became one of the premier wayfinding cities in the world.
But my other favorite thing is, really, just a binder. But the company that makes them sells these different inserts to go inside. They have calendar inserts, graph paper inserts, plain sketch paper, and you mix and match. I usually sketch in it–I try not to keep too many notes in it because those are usually messy–and I also keep a sort of mini journal in it, of what happened throughout my day. They're like little collages. It’s an interesting blend of my professional and personal life, and the binders themselves are also just really beautiful.
My favorite gift of all time, and one I’ve used constantly in my work around New Orleans, is a book my uncle gave to me - The History of the Lower Garden District. What’s really cool about it is there are not great research resources in general about the local history of New Orleans architecture. You can’t go to the library and find the history of the Lower Garden District with an architectural bent on the shelf somewhere. Except in New Orleans, at some point in time, someone put this whole series together specifically about hyper-local architecture, so when you need to get historic approval from the Historic Districts Landmark Commission, or even understand the context you’re working in, this is the perfect resource.
I have two favorite gifts. Three years ago my dad gave me a DeWalt impact wrench kit. It was something that I would never think to buy for myself, but something my dad thought I should have, saying “you’re going to eventually want one of these.” It has turned out to be something I use constantly. I build shelves and tables in my free time. I made a writing desk recently that I really love. I got all this nice plywood, and some legs, and basically all I used to put it together was the screwdriver.
My other favorite gift is more of an experience. My mom is one of four siblings. In architecture school, I was accepted to a study abroad semester in Finland, so that year, everyone in her family essentially came together to help me pay for it. The semester was split in half, so we did a design studio and a documentation studio (essentially hand documentation of existing buildings there, which was really amazing). It really kick-started my love of all things Scandinavian design. I came back with all these Artek souvenirs, and I still ask for Finnish gifts for Christmas every year. I actually got paid to go back two years later! Which was the truly amazing thing that came out of the trip. if I hadn’t initially gone I never would have gotten what was technically my first job out of school.