Young Architect 2017 Holiday Gift Guide 

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Here it is, folks. The long-awaited 2017 Young Architect Holiday Gift Guide.

I know, I know…

I didn’t write a 2016 gift guide, because I was diligently working on a big project at that time. (That’s Archispeak for making money.) The 2016 holidays came and went, and I didn’t even blink an eye.

So to make up for last year’s lack of gift-giving support, I am sharing 35 AWESOME ITEMS with you that would make an awesome gift for any Architect in your life.

The Previous Young Architect Gift Guides

I may not have written the 2016 gift guide, but there is no shortage of Young Architect Gift Guides. Before I unleash the 2017 list, let me connect you to the Holiday Gift Guides of yesteryear.

Here is a link to the 2014 Young Architect Gift Guide and the 2015 Young Architect Gift Guide.

Since the universe revolves around ARE Candidates and Architecture Students, here is a curated list of Gifts and Toys For Architecture students and The ARE Candidates Holiday Wish List.

In 2015 I also painstakingly reviewed The Top 50 Architecture Books of 2015 and then wrote 7 Must Have Architect Tools for Under $10

And what about the kids?!??? Oh yea, don’t forget about the kids. Make sure that you check out the post about Architecture Gifts for Kids and I have also written 15 Architecture Books For Kids.

Hopefully, these posts will keep you busy during your holiday shopping.

Young Architect’s 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

Ok friends, here are 35 items I highly recommend as gifts for an Architect to give or receive.


1. Architect’s Writing Pen

Click here for a link to the Tornado Pen

A few years ago, I purchased 8 different stainless steel pens on Amazon, in order to compare and find the best one. Long (and boring) story short, this pen beat out all the competition. It’s $20, and a very well-made pen for anyone who is a connoisseur of writing utensils.

I know we all have our own preferences. But I use this pen for writing, not really for drawing.

2. Young Architect Programs and Products

*****Shameless YA self-promotion warning*****

In 2015, I published an ARE Bestseller called How to Pass the Architect Registration Exam. It will help you get in the right frame of mind to pass the Architect exam. Rather than another book of facts to memorize, this book helps you understand how to use the abundance of information in a constructive way. Click here to learn about How to Pass the ARE.

Based on the success of the book, I created a group-coaching program to help people get started with the Architect Exam called The ARE Boot Camp. We kind of treat it like a design studio for the architect exam. We meet weekly via video conferencing, have a lot of fun, and study our asses off. Click Here to learn more about The ARE Boot Camp.

Based on the success of the ARE Boot Camp, I created an online video program called Getting Started with ARE 5.0 that takes the boot camp methodology, and shares the process entirely through online videos. This program systematically guides you through the confusion of getting started with ARE 5.0. Click here to learn more about Getting Started with ARE 5.0’s Video Program

3. Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice

Click here for a link to the AHPP

There has never been a time before when thousands of Aspiring Young Architects have wished for a copy of the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice (AHPP) under the Christmas tree.

Thanks to ARE 5.0, the AHPP has been taken off that dusty old shelf, and been brought into the spotlight. Many people (myself included) barely opened this book during ARE 4.0, but that’s no longer possible in the ARE 5.0 era.

Love it or hate it. AHPP is a must-have for ARE 5.0 Candidates.  I’m happy for the newfound popularity of the AHPP.

4. The AirPods

Click here for a link to The AirPods

I made fun of them, and I’m sure you did, too. I know, they look like you have Q-Tips hanging out of your ears.

But I kept reading really good reviews about them, so I had to give them a try. Between listening to music and talking on the phone or my computer, I use the old-school chorded earbuds all day long. What’s the worst thing that would happen? I waste $150. Wouldn’t be the first time.

Within 1 week of using them, I was sold. I absolutely love them.

But don’t they fall out of your ears?!???

No! They don’t, because they don’t have a chord to pull them out. That’s why old-school headphones fall out of your ears.

The carrying case holds 5 or 6 charges, and it charges them while you aren’t using them. They also fit nicely in my pocket. Airpods were one of my best purchases of 2017.

5. ARE 5.0 materials – AEP 5.0, DH 5.0, Ballast Book, ARE Sketches

Even if I wrote last year’s holiday gift guide, I couldn’t have written about ARE 5.0 Study Materials because, well…. They barely existed.

Glad to say we have comfortably transitioned into the ARE 5.0 era, and most major publishers have the bulk of their ARE 5.0 materials available.

Architect Exam Prep is one of my favorite publishers, and they have done an amazing job of creating ARE 5.0 study materials.

Designer Hacks has released practice questions for all exams. Designer Hacks pretty much wrote entirely new questions for 5.0, and said that they only used about 10% of the old 4.0 questions in their new 5.0 practice tests.

Ballast has published and released a second printing of their ARE 5.0 content.  Most of their 4.0 content was reorganized into 5.0, but there is quite a bit of new content for each 5.0 chapter. PPI gave YA readers a 15% discount code (YARCH) on their website, and here is a link to Ballast on Amazon.

Brightwood has all their 5.0 materials out. 98% of it is their 4.0 content, but it’s just reorganized. It’s great content, but be careful because many of the same chapters are in multiple divisions. Here’s my chart, which breaks down how they reorganized their original content, and which chapters are reprinted where

ARE Sketches is still going strong, and it’s very relevant to ARE 5.0. Lora, the author, recently published a second book.

Plural Sight is one of the new publishers on the scene. They are creating videos, which teach the content of the Architect Exam that many people having been raving about.

6. The Mavic Pro

Click here for a link to the Mavic Pro

Before you roll your eyes and write this off, I want you to hear me out…

I doubt that you were paying attention, but 2017 was the year that drones went from being stupid toys for middle-aged kids to legitimate tools of the trade. When the Mavic Pro hit the market, it CHANGED EVERYTHING.


Because it shoots 4K and can fly 2 miles away.

Because it folds up to the size of a small football and fits inside an inconspicuous man purse.

Because it takes BEAUTIFUL pictures and videos.

Because its relatively cheap, considering its professional quality.

Flying around buildings at 400’ above the ground is a game-changer for any Architect.

The Mavic Pro is another one of the best purchases I made in 2017.  After owning and flying this drone every day for a few months, I started to get mad at myself, for waiting for so long to pull the trigger on this purchase.

If the Mavic Pro is just too much for a first drone, then I would recommend checking out the DJI Spark. But I would ignore any drones that aren’t made by DJI at this point, since it has very quickly become the industry leader in drone technology.

I would also recommend purchasing it from Amazon, not DJI. I keep hearing horror stories about DJI’s customer service. It’s always a lot easier to make returns to Amazon.

I’m excited about the drone technology in 2018, and you should be, too.

7. G2 Pens

Click here for a link to the G2 Pens

Yep, more pens. A perfect stocking stuffer for any Architect..

8. UA Boom 2 Bluetooth Speaker

Click here for a link to the UA Boom 2

There are too many Bluetooth speakers on the market. I purchased this speaker due to the recommendation of a friend. It’s loud AF, is waterproof, and is the size of a water bottle.

Trust me, this is the speaker to get. They make a larger, louder model, but this speaker is already super-loud. So the more expensive speaker doesn’t seem worth it to me.

9. A+ Architecture: The Best of Architizer 2017

Click here for a link to the Best of Architizer 2017

Architizer’s Best 100 Pieces of Architecture, which was published in 2017.

10. Sharpie Oil Based Paint Markers

Click here for a link to the Oil Based Sharpies

Are you sick of your sharpies not being strong enough?

I know, I am too. That’s why I started using sharpies made with oil-based paint.

11. 100 Years, 100 Buildings by John Hill

Click here for a link to the John Hill’s 100 Year/100 Buildings Book

Our friend John Hill’s survey of the best buildings from 1916 to 2016.

12. State Bicycle

Click here for a link to the State Bicycle Company

A few months ago, I purchased a basic, cheap 1-speed bicycle from this company that I’d never heard of before. I needed a bike for getting around NYC, which I could lock up or abuse. And if it got stolen or smashed, it wouldn’t be a hardship.

Buying this bike was a $450 gamble on my part, but I was pleasantly surprised by its quality, and how damn good-looking it is. In a few more rides, I’ll have gotten my money’s worth.

A cheap single-speed bike makes a great present for any architect. I highly recommend State Bicycles.

13. Black: Architecture in Monochrome

Click here for a link to the Black Architecture book

During Architecture School, I avoided using color like the plague. Everything was either Black, Gray, White, or Red.

I hated colors and wasn’t good at using them, so I just avoided them.

Besides, I wanted everyone to look at my designs, and colors were distracting people from the architecture.

14. Cannon 70D with a Wide Angle Lens

Click here for a link to the Cannon 70d

Click here for a link to the Wide Angle Lens

A few years ago, I bought a cannon Rebel T6i, which is their entry-level DSLR. It’s a good camera, but I quickly outgrew it. I completely regret worrying soo much about the price of my first DSLR, so I wish I’d gotten the 70d.

If you’re in the market for a DSLR or giving one as a gift, start with the 70d. When you buy cheap, it always becomes more expensive in the long run.

A good wide-angle lens is a must-have tool for any architect. I use this lens for site photos, or when measuring a building. Each picture captures a ton of valuable information.

15. Law For Architects: What You Need To Know

Click here for a link to Law For Architects

I love this book. Not because of the exciting topic, but because it is well-written and in a way that an Architect can understand.

I deeply appreciate how this book takes very complicated (and kinda boring) subject matter, then explains it in an easy-to-follow, approachable way.  This book is a must-read for any Architect who would prefer having a career without legal problems.

16. Battery Charger – Only A 26000 mAh charger.

Click here for a link to the 26000 mAh battery charger

“The weakest link to our powerful technology is…. Batteries.” – Charles Van Winckle

This guy is absolutely right.

Running out of battery power has become one of my biggest fears. I can’t make it through the day without having to charge something.

Nothing seems more ridiculous than having to charge your charger. That’s exactly why I recommend forgetting all the chargers out there, and just getting a 26000 mAh charger. Stop wasting your time with all those pathetic little chargers, which can barely bring your phone to 100%.

I carried this charger when I bicycled across America. I charged it up about once a week, and it kept my phone and all my gadgets running.

Here’s the reason why I specifically recommend a 26000 mAh charger: A 27000 mAh is the maximum amount of Lithium Ion that you’re allowed to bring on an airplane. It wouldn’t make sense to go any bigger.

In the past few years, they have been making them thinner and lighter.

17 – Abe Lincoln Riding a T-Rex Artwork

Click here for a link to this beautiful piece of Artwork. 

Add a little artwork to your Architect Holiday Shopping!

18. Young Architect Stickers

Click here for a link to the YA stickers

From the many lectures I have given and conferences I have attended I have accumulated wayyyyy to many Young Architect Stickers. If you give me a couple of bucks, it will inspire me to get off my lazy ass and I’ll send you an envelope filled with YA stickers.

19. The Construction Specification Institute (CSI) Practice Guides.

Here is a link to the Project Delivery Practice Guide.

Here is a link to the Construction Contract Practice Guide.

Here is a link to the Construction Specification Practice Guide.

Ahhhh yes. This year, I completed the CSI Construction Documents Technologist (CDT) Certification, and I discovered the books that CSI has published to help me study for that exam. So I have been recommending them for use on the Architect Exam.

The Project Delivery Practice Guide is one of the best resources I have encountered for learning about the delivery of a construction project.

The Specifications and Construction Administration books are also amazing resources. Many people are using these books to study for ARE 5.0. I wish CSI published more books.

20. A Golden Ticket to the 2018 AIA Conference in New York City June 21st – 23rd

Click here for a link to learn about the AIA Conference.

Nothing says I love you like bankrolling all that continuing education!

Registration doesn’t open until January 24. So this holiday gift might be a piece of tracing paper that says, “I promise to buy you a ticket to the AIA Conference in NYC.”

21. Audible Membership

Click here for a link to get a free Audible Trial

God bless Audiobooks.

I don’t have time to read, and I doubt you do either. If I have time to read a book, I spend it with picture-based architecture design books.

Audible is the way I’ve devoured all the great business and entrepreneurship books. I have been a member for a very long time.

They are currently running a 30-day free trial, and they will give you 2 free audiobooks.

22. An Amazon Prime Membership (for your technologically challenged family members)

Click here for a link to purchase Amazon Prime as a gift.

Last year, I purchased an Amazon prime membership to give my father for the holidays. He’s a little bit behind technologically, and didn’t really know what Amazon Prime is. Maybe it’s a lazy present, but it quickly changed the old man’s life.

Amazon Prime makes a fantastic gift for someone who doesn’t already have it.

23. Sketchbook Business Card Holder

Click here for a link to the Sketchbook Business Card Holder

It looks like a mini sketchbook, but it’s REALLY a business-card holder! It’s a must-have for all my Architect Power-Networking Friends.


24. Good Fucking Design Advice Swag

Click here for a link to the GFDA

The GFDA has no problem calling the kettle black or saying what everyone else is scared to say. Everyone in the design industry appreciates their advice.

25. How Will We Live Tomorrow – The Book

Click here for a link to the How Will We Live Tomorrow Book.

My Architect friend Paul E. Fallon from Cambridge, Massachusetts, rode his bicycle 20,000 miles around America. He asked everyone he met this question: “How will we live tomorrow?” and blogged like a maniac about it. He stayed with me when he got to Portland, Oregon, in the middle of his trip. I showed him around town, and took him out for dinner.

Paul recently published a beautiful book, sharing pictures and stories of everyone he met cycling all over America.

In early 2017 I interviewed Paul on the Young Architect Podcast.

26. A Knockoff Eames Coat Rack

Click here for a link to the Bootleg Eames Coat Rack

What, do you live in a barn? Hang up your coat.

27. 100 Years, 100 Landscapes

Click here for a link to the 100 Years, 100 Landscapes

Our friend John Hill wrote a survey of the best landscape designs from 1916 to 2016. I wonder if he wrote this book independently from his other books about the best buildings of the past 100 years.

28. Snowpeak Titanium Spork

Click here for a link to the Snowpeak Titanium Spork

It’s not a spoon. It’s not a fork. It’s not a knife. It’s a Spork!

It’s the perfect utensil for pasta, ice cream, apple pie, or Thanksgiving dinner.

Buy a couple of sporks, and you can just get rid of your entire silverware drawer.


29. Chrome Storm Rain Jacket

Click here for a link to the Chrome Storm Rain Jacket

I lived in Portland for 10 years before I recently moved back to New York. In Portland, it rains every single day for 9 months out of the year.

I used every rain jacket from every apparel company, and THIS is the best rain jacket I have ever owned.

I was skeptical about this jacket, and a little bit turned off by the fact that it was twice the price of all the other rain jackets. But it was a great investment in the long run.

30. A Fidget Spinner

Click here for a link to the only fidget spinner worth buying.


What a stupid holiday recommendation.

BUT I’ve learned that fidget spinners are a lot like selfie sticks. Everyone will make fun of them and roll their eyes. But then they get really annoying because they won’t stop touching them. Then they get amused with themselves, because they are so in love with their fidget spinners.

Trust me.

People love fidget spinners more then they want you to believe they do…

31. Citizen Jane

Click here for a link to Citizen Jane

God Bless Jane Jacobs for saving New York City. This is one of the best movies of 2017.

I love this story..

32. 6 Port USB High Speed Charger

Click here for a link to the High Speed USB Chargers

Ya know that little (5 watt) white cube that Apple gave you with your iPhone? It will take 5 or 6 hours to get your phone to fully charge.

This 65 watt charger will give you a full charged iPhone in 1-2 hours.  Just buy this charger once, and stop waiting around for things to charge.

Remember, time is money.

33. The New Old House: Historic & Modern Architecture Combined

Click here for a link to the New Old House Book

You’ll either love or hate this book.

34. Portland Architecture Swag

Click here for a link to the Portland Design Store

Support your favorite city in the Northwest by purchasing a Portland Architecture coffee cup or a tote bag. These tote bags are excellent for carrying around your ARE study materials and will help you pass all your exams.

35. Ice Cube Skulls

Click here for a link to the Ice Cube Skulls

Support your favorite city in the Northwest by purchasing a Portland Architecture coffee cup or a tote bag. These tote bags are excellent for carrying around your ARE study materials, and they’ll help you pass all your exams.

Don’t forget to checkout the Previous Young Architect Holiday Gift Guides.

About the author

Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect who lives in beautiful Portland, Oregon, with his Labrador Retriever. He is passionate about helping Young Architects change the world. In his free time, Michael likes to take very long bicycle rides across America. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linked In.