The hell of finding a gift for the architect

One may well feel sick at the thought of purchasing a gift for an architect partner. Architects are unique human beings who resist the mainstream tide, and this makes them fussy as all shit.

They have expensive tastes and will only really value things that the ordinary person (yes, including their wife/husband) would never know about. So this is a conundrum the would-be gift giver must face.

Architects over a certain age will be modernists, seeing it as their mission to maintain particular design standards (for the betterment of mankind) and will be highly critical of all that does not reflect modernist design principles. Thus the architect will be snobby about both popular and elitist consumer items.

The architect will usually have already bought for themselves the things that they value – for example the Alpha Romeo car or vintage Aston Martin (in pieces in the garage) or the blackberry or i-phone.

There are some ways around the gift dilemma. A little research will go a long way. Get yourself some tips from an expert in another field that the architect feels they should know more about (eg. Japanese ceramics, the culture wars, wine). Or from an uber-architect or architectural historian whose tastes are even more obscure and refined than your architect’s.

Or follow some of my tips based on nothing but gut instinct and my experience of many architect husbands.

Suggested Gift for Architects

Gadgets that are well designed. Including any Apple products – they have been developed by designers as well as nerds.

Frank Lloyd Wright Tie or tie pin – even though architects hate wearing ties.

Illy coffee cups.

Maglite torch. All tools are acceptable and appeal to the architect’s practical/functional side, but the chosen tool must have good design qualities.


All wooden Danish furniture – particularly vintage or retro Danish furniture.image31

Helicopter ride or Bridge Climb in a city or region with his/her buildings evident. This is guaranteed to be a blast seeing the building(s) from a new angle and getting a sense of the ‘big picture’.

Phantom comics. Good for the time poor architect who doesn’t have time to read. Phantom mug – from vintage store. Who can guess why the phantom appeals to many architects.

Any ‘serious’ sci fi – Collection of Asimov books, DVD of Dune, Gattica, Alien. Any sci fi with Jody Foster.

Stainless steel Dalek salt and pepper shakers


Magritte umbrella


Quirky t-shirt – ideal choice is Copyleft t-shirt. Quirky – ideologically sound.


Architects LOVE visual humour – so something like the Freud watch is ideal. This shows Freud on the watch face and certain thought clouds come and go, suggesting the subconscious….eg. SEX….Book suggestions.freudianwatch

Find a conceptual book that is about the importance of holding the ‘big picture’, guaranteed to reinforce the architect’s sense of purpose and cater to his desire for the higher moral ground. Best to choose one that offers a tough critique of existing social formations and suggests the answer lies in better design and reform of the built environment.

Some classic architectural ‘big picture’ works.

Manfredo Tafuri Architecture and Utopia: Design and Capitalist Development

Fredric Jameson Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism

Other authors….Henri LeFebvre, Jane Jacobs.

Mike Davis’s City of Quartz – on the history of the city of LA, is considered an architectural classic or ‘tour de force’.

Brilliant book for architects is

Architects House Themselves: Breaking New Ground

by Michael Webb


Books about architects that the masses are not aware of. Perhaps a Taschen book on a cool architect like Albert Frey who combined the architect’s interest in modern design and sci fi.


Or a book that will arm the architect with tons of facts that will help him be a know-all at dinner parties.

The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger by Marc Levinson

Oil by Upton Sinclair

Something pointed – to get him away from the office.
Surfing lessons, scuba diving instruction.

An outward bound course – do they have them for grown ups? Architects are fascinated by the romance of surviving in the wild.

A Sea Kayak – if you get a double one, at the very worst you’ll get to spend some quality time with one of yr children.


4 responses to “The hell of finding a gift for the architect

  1. Great site! From one architect’s wife to another, I admire your pointed accuracy.

  2. Thank you. Do you have a blog – I am curious to know what the lives of other wives of architects are like.

  3. Great gift ideas for my archie hubbie!

  4. Pingback: Apps for architects | architects' wives

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