Gift suggestions for architecture student?
May 10, 2007 1:17 PM   Subscribe

GiftFilter: Help me pick a graduation gift for my brother, who is headed to grad school for architecture.

I had a gift picked out, but that was when he had plans to find a job in finance (his undergrad degree). But now, thankfully, he's decided to pursue his passion and go back to school for architecture. So now I'm trying to come up with something that would be useful to an architecture student.

My budget is ~$300. I know he would like a Wacom tablet, but I'm unsure how wise it would be to buy one before he gets a better idea of the equipment his new school (Michigan) will have and whether he'll get a big student discount. He also mentioned something about a portfolio case. Any guidance on the above or new suggestions would be appreciated.
posted by mullacc to Grab Bag (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
An espresso machine was the best gift my boyfriend received during architecture school, which he completed four days ago.
posted by avocet at 1:36 PM on May 10, 2007


Get him a shitload of coffee.

I've never heard of a Wacom tablet before, but there might be some kind of program he could use it with. I can't see it helping much with CAD programs though. Maybe some kind of 3D modelling software would use it.

I went to school long enough ago that we were still in the pen and pencil era, so if that's still going on, you get him a Mayline parallel ruler and a drafting board, along with some other instruments like adjustable triangles and shape templates. If they still use ink and mylar, maybe some technical pens (tungsten or jewel tip for mylar, steel's okay for vellum).

Books: Form, Space and Order by Francis Ching. The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa, by Rowe and Koetter. Some kind of architectural monograph that he would like--and don't rely on Borders or Barnes & Noble to have it, go to an art museum.
posted by LionIndex at 1:41 PM on May 10, 2007


Damn -- architecture students pull more "all nighters" than anyone I know. It seems to be part of the culture. I was astounded at the stamina of my brother and friends who went through architectural programs. Memories of friends falling asleep at dinner just having endured a crit that afternoon.

Consider some magazine subscriptions:

Architect, Architectural Record, Metropolis, etc.
posted by ericb at 1:52 PM on May 10, 2007


don't get him any subscriptions, the schools already have subscriptions and he'll end up swiping the ones he really wants to read (which won't be any, because he'll be so tired after class he may end up watching someone else play video games, like my ex-roommate does now).

I would recommend that you give him some Southwest Airlines ticket vouchers so that he can jump on a plane and go somewhere when he has some time off or a conference he is invited to but can't afford to otherwise attend.
posted by parmanparman at 2:06 PM on May 10, 2007


Here's a great resource for books: Prairie Ave. Bookshop
It's an independent bookstore in Chicago specializing in architecture & design. They carry a lot of rare & out-of-print stuff, and I'm sure they do internet orders or gift certificates.
posted by Alpenglow at 2:11 PM on May 10, 2007


The Codex Seraphinianus would make a delightful gift to an architect, student, or anyone with a creative bone.

*sends link anonymously to mom*
posted by yeti at 2:22 PM on May 10, 2007


I got books from every relative on every holiday and ended up having to buy the ones I REALLY wanted myself. Books are hard for an outsider to pick, even though they seem like a sure-fire hit. AFAIK, it's unlikely he'll have much need for a tablet for coursework, although they're fun to have around regardless. Most undergrad programs require 1-2 years of hand drafting before getting into CAD, but a lot of grad programs accelerate that process; still, a drafting board remains an essential tool. I would recommend

- travel vouchers (cool idea, parmanparman)
- drafting board (full-size, not 24x36) and a mayline
- a super-comfy work chair for studio (adjustable height)
- massage coupons (standing over a drafting table for a week straight really hurts)
posted by Chris4d at 2:33 PM on May 10, 2007


I got books from every relative on every holiday and ended up having to buy the ones I REALLY wanted myself. Books are hard for an outsider to pick, even though they seem like a sure-fire hit.

Amen. No matter how much it tempts you, never, ever, ever, ever buy the poor soul a Frank Lloyd Wright book (unless it's the pop-up one).
posted by LionIndex at 2:38 PM on May 10, 2007


Thanks for all the suggestions so far.

Chris4d and LionIndex: I like the idea of buying some of the supplies you both mention (drafting board, mayline ruler, pens, etc). Do you think I could go to a local art supply or drafting supply store and have the staff pick stuff out for me? There are a couple stores near me that seem like possibilities: Wet Paint and Drafting Equipment Warehouse.
posted by mullacc at 2:53 PM on May 10, 2007


A lot of it depends how much of his projects will be computer generated. If he is building a lot of models by hand, a nice Dremel set is crucial. Drafting pens [ie: Rapidograph] are expensive if they are never used and that all depends on the class. When I was in school I used them my first semester and never again for the next 9. Double-sided mylar is a very unsexy gift - but man I loved that stuff. Someone who actually went to grad school at Mich recently would be be better informed of their pedagogy on computers vs. hand.

One thing I still love is my leather Hippo sketch book. Portable, refillable, and it closes with a pen, so you're never without it.
posted by yeti at 3:14 PM on May 10, 2007


This knob is pretty awesome. Architects go wild for it.
posted by four panels at 3:18 PM on May 10, 2007


While less practical a gift than you might be going for, the Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture is by far the coolest, most impressive collection on modern architecture I've ever seen. And at about half of your budget, you might be able to get it and some more practically useful items.
posted by nerdcore at 3:23 PM on May 10, 2007


You'd be wasting money on a drafting board at a store--just go to Home Depot and get a (roughly) 5' x 3' sheet of particle board/mdf (*not* plywood or oriented strand board), or get a hollow core slab door and cut it in half. Then go to the art or drafting store and get a vinyl board cover (made by borco) and a Mayline (that's the actual brand name, you can find the link for them under "drafting tables" at the Drafting Equipment Warehouse site. The mayline should be at least 42" long; I'd recommend going a bit longer.

You might want to hold off on the pens until you're sure if he needs them--they're pricey and they don't last too long. The triangles you can get just about anywhere--even Staples or Office Depot. He'll need a small collection, but the basic essential is an adjustable triangle. I have a couple Staedtler triangles and they're good, but Alvin makes good stuff too. Aside from the adjustable, I'd need one fairly large 30/60/90 and one tiny little one, 6" or smaller.
posted by LionIndex at 3:30 PM on May 10, 2007


^Personally, I'm not a fan of coffee table books. Get a monograph by El Croquis publishers of his favorite architect, instead.

The portfolio case is handy, and they could run pretty expensive. I also second a Dremel set, and maybe a large box of bandages to compliment it (there's a joke about architects' fingers being all pointy due to all the model-making).
posted by hobbes at 3:32 PM on May 10, 2007


If he doesn't already have a digital camera, it might be an excellent gift in this price range. Something like the Canon Powershot A510 is a good choice.
posted by sindark at 3:34 PM on May 10, 2007


I wouldn't buy supplies for him for the same reason people have suggested not buying books: he'll know better than you ever could what he wants/needs, and it's disappointing to get stuff you can't use. Try to stay away from gifts that you know less about his taste in than he does, or will once he starts his new program.

The best gifts I can think of are ones where your expertise in the area of the gift is greater than or equal to his. Something really nice for the apartment where he'll be living, like a great blender if he likes to make fancy frozen drinks or a DVR with a built in DVD-burner, or a fancy Bose radio might be a great gift. That way, you're not trying to guess what he'll need based on incomplete information about what a budding architect needs. Instead, you're basing your gift choice on your much more complete information about what your brother is like and what he enjoys. You're more likely to make better predictions about the latter than the former.
posted by decathecting at 4:07 PM on May 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'd agree with decathecting: stay away from the purely practical.

If he likes coffee, seriously, get him a heckuva lot of it (or a good coffee machine). At my local universities, architecture is the field that everyone else pities, in that "oh my god their workload is crazy" way. Even the pre-med students pity the architecture kids.

So: yeah, coffee.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:20 PM on May 10, 2007


Give him a spreadsheet that compares how long it will take to pay off his student loans on an Architect Grad's salary. You might also want to throw in the comparable salary and work week of a finance grad. Oh wait, I'm being bitter.

How 'bout one of these?
http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/001524.php
posted by tfmm at 4:43 PM on May 10, 2007


Ok, y'all convinced me, I'm going to drop the practical ideas. The airline vouchers and coffee machine are great ideas.

tfmm: I'm the finance guy in the family. He's hoping I do well enough to finance his creative whims. ;)
posted by mullacc at 4:45 PM on May 10, 2007


I wouldn't buy supplies for him for the same reason people have suggested not buying books: he'll know better than you ever could what he wants/needs, and it's disappointing to get stuff you can't use. Try to stay away from gifts that you know less about his taste in than he does, or will once he starts his new program.

I'd agree about this with just about everything but some of the drafting equipment, which is pretty basic and there's really not a whole lot of options anyway. I mean, you get a Mayline or you get a T-square; which is like comparing a Cadillac with a Yugo. At some point, dude's gonna have to draw a bunch of straight lines. No way around it. You're right in that it might be wiser to wait until he starts the program and finds out what he actually needs, but I'll have a Mayline in my living space until I die whether I use it or not.
posted by LionIndex at 4:51 PM on May 10, 2007


I had a gift picked out, but that was when he had plans to find a job in finance

Out of curiosity, what was that gift?
posted by Kwantsar at 7:31 PM on May 10, 2007


Out of curiosity, what was that gift?

A Tumi business bag.
posted by mullacc at 7:34 PM on May 10, 2007


A metal or metal-edge ruler. As big and high quality as you can afford. He will need to cut straight lines with a scalpel.

Something to get glue out of carpets might help.

(At university I shared a room with an architect.)
posted by WPW at 5:35 AM on May 11, 2007


It's probably not the answer you're looking for, but I'll suggest it anyway: maybe you could give him the $300 in cash. As a student, cash is always the most useful, regardless of how nice a present can be.

If you want it to be more subtle than handing cash, you could give him an "desperate times emergency" enveloppe, which he can only open in truly desperate times.
posted by lioness at 12:18 PM on May 11, 2007


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