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What to get your inner architect to christmas


Shopping List For Your Inner Architect

What your inner architect wants for Christmas

If you’re reading a column titled “Architecture Matters”, then chances are you have an Inner Architect. That’s the part of you that made lego versions of Fallingwater, designed snow forts with cantilevers, or cut scale pieces of your furniture out of cardboard and moved them around on graph paper representing your living room.

But your Inner Architect responds to more than just the urge to design. It chooses your favorite restaurant not solely based on the food, but also its location, the artful presentation of each course, the choreography of the service, and the character of the dining space.  Your Inner Architect prefers a perfectly balanced fountain pen to a Bic because of the way it glides across the page.  It’s your Inner Architect that subconsciously runs its finger down the embossed spine of a beautifully-bound hardcover book. And it’s the part of you that chose (or secretly desires) an iPad. 

Your Inner Architect is fulfilled when design takes something ordinary and makes it extraordinary, elevates routine to ritual, or encompasses all your senses, and as a result you feel more alive, engaged and aware.

If you don’t recognize these traits in yourself, I’ll bet you’ve seen them in someone on your holiday shopping list. So, for the Inner Architect in you or someone you love, here is my first – and last – annual holiday shopping guide.

Make It Real. 

Your Inner Architects’ fingers can tell the difference between wood and a plastic veneer; their eyes can distinguish between stainless steel and chromed plastic. Their ears can appreciate the gap separating compressed digital music played through ear buds from lossless recordings enjoyed on noise-canceling headphones. Their nostrils can differentiate leather from Pleather, Leatherette, or Naugahyde.  So, to satisfy their urge for authenticity, consider a geometric wooden puzzle; a wordless, brushed stainless steel license plate holder; or a pocket-slimming leather magnetic money clip (Duluth Trader, $35).

Do More With Less. 

Your Inner Architect bristles at the trend towards increasing complexity to accomplish simple tasks. While your Inner Sloth may want a Keurig coffeemaker, your Inner Architect does not. It wants a Bodum French press. This simple tool is smaller, cheaper, contains fewer parts, produces better brews and is beautiful.  Bodum also makes a double-walled glass called Pavina (2/$14). The antithesis of drinking coffee out of Styrofoam, these lightweight glasses contain an inner wall that suspends your beverage in a perfect parabola above the table. Your drink is separated by a vacuum-sealed air space from the outer wall of glass so you can comfortably pick up the 190-degree drink of your choice or place it on your cherry wood table without the need for a coaster. 

Elevate the Ritual.

Both the above products turn routine to ritual. Your Inner Architect gets that. It wants you to slow down and pay attention. It desires products that sensitize you to things you’ve taken for granted since the first Bush administration. A great example is the Lamy Studio Stainless Steel Fountain Pen ($75).  These writing tools today are flawless, precise and leak-free. They are refillable for pennies, or you can use cartridges if you’re afraid of ink bottles. Either way, your recipient’s Inner Architect will enjoy the effortless touch and ample inkflow while writing you a heartfelt thank you note. 

Think Local First. 

For your Inner Architect, a gift’s place of origin, and especially its place of purchase - and what that purchase helps support -  matters as much as the gift. I’d be foolish not to rack up some brownie points here by suggesting that a subscription to your local newspaper is one of the most considerate, locally-sourced, community-minded gifts you can get. Your thoughtfulness is remembered with each paper’s arrival, and even if the economic news you it features is not good, you can rest assured your gift is supporting local jobs. 

Otherwise, shop independent stores, and businesses in nearby downtowns when possible to score big with your Inner Architect’s dream of a vibrant, bustling Main Street. 

Cleverly Solve A Problem. 

Architect Le Corbusier famously declared in 1923 that “The problem of the house has not yet been stated” before, inevitably, going on to state it and offer solutions. Your Inner Architect similarly cringes when products attempt to serve a need that has yet to be clearly articulated.

Case in point, the travel mug. Travelers state the problem as follows: We want something that maintains our drink’s temperature indefinitely; is slender enough to comfortably grip, or slip in a cupholder; can hold a tea bag while sealed shut; can be thoroughly cleaned with removable gaskets;  and that, with the flick of a button, becomes spillproof.  Your Inner Architect will find the solution in the Thermos Sipp 16-Ounce Travel Mug ($25), which meets all these criteria and is beautifully constructed to boot.  

Another example: To paraphrase Thoreau, the masses live lives of quiet desperation, making do in winter with the ubiquitous 6” long ice scrapers, and using their sleeves to brush off the snow.  Meanwhile, SUV owners live with the opposite problem, scrapers as long as yardsticks and just as hard to store. The OXO Good Grips Snowbrush ($20) is extendable which means it’s also collapsible and fits comfortably on the floor of your passenger seat. It has a good-sized brush which can be used parallel to the handle to brush snow up or down, or with the push of a button it can be pivoted to operate like a hand-held broom, pushing big heaps of snow off the opposite end of the car. Your Inner Architect does like a well-placed button every now and then.

Keep it Simple. 

Sometimes your Inner Architect wants all this but in as simple a design as possible. The Glass Block Photo Frame ($10) consists of two pieces of thick glass with a slot in the middle where you can slide a 4x6 photo for frameless full-bleed display. The resulting presentation adds depth, can be stood on any edge, can showcase photos on both sides, and catches light along the thick edges of the glass in unexpected ways. Done. 

And if your Inner Architect likes to keep outerly warm by the fire, the best functioning and simplest fireplace tools are often the most beautiful. An ash bin with a lid by Uniflame ($50) seems to have been designed by someone who has experienced giant plumes of ash dust filling their living room after a slightly energetic scoop into the open bin. This product’s tapered design traps the ashes away from the mouth of the bin, while also providing a lower center of gravity, making it more stable and easier to carry.

These gifts are merely examples demonstrating the principles that will titillate your Inner Architect. Not coincidentally, they also describe a broader approach to design that you might consider the next time you embark on a project. From my Inner Architect to yours, Happy Holidays.

 So, from my Inner Architect to yours, I thought I would assemble a list of some holiday gifts you

Might start with humor about architects. Broaden to the “architect in all of us?” and define that aspect of personality… Maybe some discussions of deeply symbolic or industrially fabricated crèches and menorahs; square wreaths; things that really just work  - soap dish with drainage holes; ashes container; CD from the local music store (or gift certificate) b/c the inner architect can tell the difference, you can still rip it lossless and to mp3, and you have an automatic back-up; 

This would perhaps morph quickly into, what would an architect get you for Christmas, and could include recommendations for buying locally, buying the Sipp and the bodum glass, a subscription to this newspaper…

What do all these ideas have in common? In a recent survey (that I conducted by walking through a parking lot), a stunning 75% of cars advertise the dealership’s name and often website on the license plate holder. I don’t blame the dealer for trying but I’ve always been surprised that the same discretion that leads people to spend $15,000 - $30,000, and often 15 – 30 hours of research and shopping for an automobile does not extend to spending 15-30 minutes to buy and install license plate holders. A variety of thin, stainless steel models, or durable alloys painted to match the car’s finish are easy to find at a local store for $15-$30. 


Rick Hauser