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  • Writer's picturedowntownjason

Biggest urbanist gift guide, that’ll find a (right of) way to their heart

Updated: Nov 19, 2018

Utopian or realistic vision of the future: you decide, with Blockitecture

Got an urbanist or city planner in your life? If so, their niche and very specific interests may make them very hard to shop for, so here’s a list of sweet finds for your favourite city builder. Form meets function with sleek stationary, pens and pencils ... self-guided tours to make any day in the city feel (Frank Lloyd) Wright … clothes to feel (City) Beautiful in … Let this urbanist gift guide be the definitive ‘case study’ this festive, holiday season.

Frank Gehry's Art Gallery of Ontario

I love you Gehry much

Take a voyage through architect Frank Gehry’s subconscious with a series of online classes. Gehry unpacks his design philosophy through video lectures. Subscription also means that you can upload your class assignments for a critique from Gehry himself. Fun fact: Edmonton’s Art Gallery of Alberta was designed by a disciple of Gehry’s. Cost: $120.

Build it, and they will come

Relive all of your favourite trips and memories, with LEGO replicas of destinations like New York, Chicago, and Guggenheim. Explore new cities you’d like to see and visit! Cost varies from $39.99 to $139.99. If you’re wanting a more local option, check out Mouse and Castle for architectural toys designed by my thesis advisor, Rae Bridgman (she gifted me hot pink building blocks that I use often to think about scale and form). Blockitecture is also another fun way to dream up new cityscapes!

LEGO replica of New York City

Form meets function

Every city builder has a go-to pen or pencil (i.e. the ones that we don’t give away at public engagement workshops). Muji’s capped gel-ink pens and low center gravity mechanical pencils feel so good in your hands, are a joy to look at, and dry/write very well. Cost varies from $1.99 to $9.50.

Notes from out in the field

No offense to Moleskine-lovers, but Leuchtturm notepads look better and are more attractive. Honestly, I think it’s the typeface! I own many Leuchtturm notepads, and what I like most about them is the range of colour options (a great way to organize your projects). Cost: $6.95. I also find much joy in Field Notes’ special edition Portland 3-pack.

A tale of many cities

Storytelling is a key tool for city planners. We learn from others, and we work towards nurturing relationships so that people may feel empowered to share their stories and their voices, as part of planning processes. Streetfight by Janette Sadik-Khan recounts how New York was able to turn its busiest street into the world’s most popular plaza, Times Square. This book is a must-have for anyone fighting for more walkable, pedestrian-oriented cities. Cost: $24.99 (hardcover). Streetfight will inspire you to think about quick-and-easy placemaking interventions to manage public concerns around risk/reward. For further reading, check out Pop-Up City for refreshing and outside-the-box solutions to urban issues.

Still in Edmonton

As you know, I’m still in Edmonton, and as much as I’d like to return home, I’m learning how to build a great city from smart minds here and quite enjoying it! Here’s hoping that I come back to Winnipeg with some great lessons learned and hot tips for city building. The lamentation, “I’m still in this city ...,” isn’t new though. We’ve all said it once or twice before. The ‘Still in Town’ brand embraces this sentiment through humour and a bit of self-deprecating honesty. We’re still in town, and that’s okay! Cost: $40 (t-shirt).

Frank, I’m home!

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Avery Coonley House is widely considered as his most elaborate prairie-style designs. Built from 1908-1912, Wright’s Avery Coonley House is referred to as a “zoned house,” with rooms divided by their functions. One of the rooms was encircled by stained-glass windows; a pattern conveniently replicated as a welcome mat for you to come home to. Cost: $172.73.

City tour du jour

Alex Bozikovic’s “Toronto Architecture: A City Guide,” contains 26 self-guided walking tours to see and experience the change happening in Canada’s largest city, Toronto. The tours showcase 1,000 designs, and feature 29 maps. Cost: $26.95. Tours are my favourite thing to sign up for as both a local and tourist! Winnipeg’s Winnipeg Trolley Company offers some exceptional summer tours, too! They’re great gifts for you and your loved ones to enjoy together (preferably with intermittent wine/brewery stops): a win/win.

Cities are magnets

I’m drawn to literally every magnet on the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation’s online shop. I own the entire collection, and now that I live in a different city, they serve as constant reminders of what I love most about Winnipeg. Cost: $3.00. These enamel pins are also quite nice, if you’re interested in classical architecture. And if you’re ever feeling down and want to perk up, this ‘Yas’ pin by Kodiak Milly is a nice reaffirmation of your ability to get people to say ‘yes’ to your initiatives and work.

Cookie cutter cities

Give your cookies a bit of personality this holiday season, with custom cityscape cookie cutters. Cost: $3.00.

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