The Architecture Student’s Christmas List

The Architecture Student’s Christmas List

I don’t care about your architecture toys.

After I finished posting the Young Architect 2014 Holiday Gift Guide, I realized many of my subscribers are students. In that other post I did nothing but alienate them. Architecture students have no interest in hearing about Roombas or overpriced architecture Lego kits. An on point architecture student could build a Villa Savoye model out of a pile of scrap bristol board in 20 minutes.

I was poor as hell in architecture school, the holiday gift guide I just wrote would have been completely useless to me. My apologies.

Santa also brings architecture supplies.

When I was in college, every year for Christmas I was gifted architecture supplies. During the holidays I told everyone that I didn’t want any gifts, but they insisted I shared my laundry list of school supplies that could really help me out.

“OK Mom, tell Santa that a new set of Rapidograph inking pens would rock my world.”

My family was really great, I pretty much had them convinced that going to architecture school was kind of like going off to war.

The Architecture Student’s Christmas List

So here I present you, my hard working architecture students a list of tools you should consider asking for during the holidays. Some of these items are kind of expensive and that was the point. Try to get Santa to pay for it, so you don’t have to with whatever little income you have.

Everything on this list will help you get ahead in architecture school, yet nothing is a magic bullet. When you're already working hard every little bit helps.

I would also recommend making the investment in some of these tools sooner than later. The quality of your work will quickly improve and that will make a difference in the long run. It’s really hard to make good architecture if you’re handicapped by crappy tools.

Make sure you also check out some of the other Young Architect Gift posts:

Electric Eraser

Electric Eraser

Ebay for electric erasers

Battery Powered on Amazon $35

An electric eraser is the single best investment for any architecture student. It’s my favorite drafting tool. I used my electric eraser on a daily basis during college. It works beautifully erasing on vellum, Mylar, bond or whatever. I would even use it to polish things. I bought mine the first year and I still have it today.

There are 2 kinds of electric erasers.

  1. The kind that plug into the wall and are very powerful and easy to use. These take ¼” stick erasers.
  2. Battery powered, wimpy electric erasers that take smaller 1/8” erasers.

It looks like they stopped making the good ones that plug into the wall. Although Ebay has a bunch. If you buy the kind that plug into the wall (which I recommend) try to get one that has a metal tip that holds the eraser. Sometimes the plastic tips wear out over time.

The last thing I’ll say about electric erasers is, I would rather have a wimpy battery powered electric eraser then, not have one at all.

 Parallel bar

A Parallel Bar or Drafting Board with a Parallel Bar.

There are many options for both Parallel Bars and Drafting Boards.

If you have made it past your very first semester of architecture school and foresee more semesters in design school, then it’s time to retire your T-square and make the investment for a parallel bar.

You cannot do professional accurate drawings with a T-square. Sure, some people do, but not very many. Keeping your T-square at true right angle is an extra complication to worry about while you’re trying to draw.

T-squares don’t work because eventually they lose their 90 degrees and are slow and pathetic.

If you have a nice drafting table, get yourself a parallel bar. I know they are expensive but you could even save money and get yourself a shorter one. I would recommend 36” min, but you could definitely get away with 24”, you’ll just have to move your paper around which is no big deal.

If you don’t have a nice drafting table to put a parallel bar on, then get a drafting board with a parallel bar. I used one of these for my first 2 years of architecture school.

What I like about these boards is that they are portable. Which allowed me to go disappear during final crunch and reappear with complete drawings.

Cad Monkey Shirt for an Architect gift

Cad Monkey T-Shirt

$28 on Zazzle

This shirt is awesome!

Rapidograph 7-Pen Tech Pen Set

Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph Pens

$81 on Amazon

OK I know its 2014, but I still whole heartedly believe in the power of creating ink on Mylar drawings for final presentation.

If you’re not unfamiliar with ink on Mylar, it’s an old school process of laying down a sheet of Mylar and using fancy Rapidograph pens that use India ink, to trace a final presentation copy of your design.

Each Rapidograph pen is a different line weight. The finer the line weight the more delicate the pen.

Ink on Mylar drawings are beautiful and not that hard to make. I truly believe it’s harder and takes more experience to make a beautiful drawing on a computer, than by hand. But that’s a whole other blog post.

Rapidograph pens are very expensive and extremely delicate to use. In my school we collectively agreed to never lend out our radiographs to each other. Not everyone has a delicate hand and some people ruin them a lot faster than others. I have had mixed luck with taking them apart, cleaning them and reusing them. Even if I was lucky, they still never worked as good as they did when they were new.

Drafting lamp

A Good Lamp

$17 Standard Lamp

$70 LED

$100 LED

If you’re working long hard hours around the clock then, lighting is everything!  Turn on all the lights and get a good lamp on your drawing or model.

A brightly lit room will help your energy levels significantly. A poorly lit room will cause your eyes to strain and will unconsciously drain your energy. If you need to stay awake, a bright room will keep you awake.

A standard issue drafting lamp works great, just make sure you have an extra bulb or two.

If you go with LED you’ll never have to worry about light bulbs.

Sharpie Fine Point Permanent Markers

Pens and Mechanical Pencils in Bulk

Regular and Fine Point Sharpies in bulk.

Pental Sign pens in bulk

Mechanical Pencils and some good gel ink pens for class.

Hey did you know they now make stainless steel sharpies? They even have the fine point sharpie. I just got mine today, they are really nice and sharp looking! Lol

wifi booster

Wi-Fi Booster

$20 on Amazon

Are you getting a crappy Wi-Fi signal on your brand new computer?  This Wi-Fi booster will add a second Wi-Fi modem that’s a lot stronger than standard Wi-Fi cards. I work in coffee shops a lot carry mine in my bag and use it when the signal isn’t great.

You shouldn’t be waiting around for a computer in 2014.

Big Rose Laser Pointers

Laser pointer

$5 on Amazon

Laser pointers can really help facilitate a conversation about a drawing on the wall.  I would use them during my presentation or give them to the reviewers.  I always avoided buying expensive laser pointers. I just used to go to Chinatown and buy 5 at a time for couple of bucks apiece. They never really lasted too long, but that was ok for a $5 laser pointer. I always got my money’s worth and it wasn’t a big loss if it disappeared.

Construction Calculator

Construction Calculator

$30 on Amazon

Construction calculators are awesome and they are definitely a luxury item, once you start using them you will wonder where they have been your whole life.

4- Mini Electric Table Saw with 2 Blades

4″ Mini Table Saw

$50 on Amazon

I wish I had one of these when I was in architecture school.

Razor A2 Kick Scooter

Razor scooter

$35 on Amazon

My architecture school building was an old horse stable. In plan, it was a very long and skinny building. Sometimes it felt like I would spend all night back and forth and up and down. Eventually I just started using a razor scooter to move around the architecture building. I got this idea to start riding a razor scooter, when I saw a middle aged Indian women riding one down the super long hallways at MIT and thought to myself ”What a great idea!”

Warnings: Don’t say you weren’t warned…

  1. Be careful riding a scooter around inside the building. There is a lot less friction and they are significantly faster inside than outside. The wheels perform terribly on some polished floors, especially when they get wet.
  2. Riding a razor scooter will drive some of your studio mates crazy. People can get cranky when they are under slept and overworked. I only rode my scooter in the studio after hours and avoided letting the administration see me riding it at all costs.

A few quick architecture books.

 Architect-- A Candid Guide to the Profession

Architect? Candid Guide to the Profession

$10 on Amazon

This is the greatest handbook for anyone pursuing a career in the architecture profession. If you haven’t read this book, I couldn’t recommend it enough. This book warned me about a lot of the pitfalls that take a lot of people out of the architecture field.

101 Things I learned in Architecture School

101 things I learned in architecture school

$10 on Amazon

I got this book when it came out around the time I graduated. I really like it. There were a few facts in there that I didn’t learn in architecture school, so I was glad to have this book to supplement my education.

Francis DK Ching Book collection

Every Single Francis DK Ching Book

Ask Santa to get you every single Francis DK Ching book. Ching books have guided me throughout my entire development as an architect. I used them to learn how to draw. He taught me about design, building construction and architectural history. During the Architect Exam I read his structures book, constantly looked up terms and frequently referenced building codes illustrated as an abridged version of the IBC.  Old used copies are fine and often only a few bucks apiece.

Merry Christmas!

I hope this helps. Try to get some rest and good luck with your final crit!

Make sure you also check out some of the other Young Architect Gift posts:


Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect, Founder and Head Coach of the ARE Boot Camp Coaching Program & Online Study Group.

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