Seattle’s architectural attractions are the city’s pride and joy. The Space Needle soars against the backdrop of the Cascade Mountains. The Rem Koolhaas-designed Seattle Central Library dazzles downtown. The MoPoP (formerly EMP), an enormous multicolored museum shaped like a guitar, delights (and confuses) all who witness its glory.

For the person in your life who fully appreciates the thoughtful design and history of Seattle structures, one of these five gifts may be just the ticket. 

1. “Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography” by David B. Williams

“Too High and Too Steep” by David Williams explores the unique engineering projects that originally shaped Seattle. Within 75 years, the city’s first engineers had completely removed a 245-foot hill that covered 60 blocks of the downtown area, built the largest artificial island in the world in the harbor, adjusted the drainage of the second-largest lake in the state so that it flowed out of its north end instead of its south end and dumped millions of tons of dirt and rock to fill in the area’s only tide flats, creating almost 3,000 acres of new land. It might sound dry to some, but for a true engineering wizard or a Seattle history nerd, this book is the perfect gift.

As one rave review of the title says, “as boring as a book about topography sounded, I must admit I completely missed the mark on this one. David B. Williams’ ‘Too High and Too Steep’ has been a dark-horse favorite among Pacific Northwest readers. So, hipster cred to you Dad; you liked it before it was cool.” Williams himself is a city treasure, regularly speaking at MOHAI and continuing to write books about Seattle history and design.

2. Peter Miller Architectural & Design Books and Supplies gift certificate

peter miller

Photo: Peter Miller Books/Facebook

Located at 2326 2nd Avenue, the Peter Miller Architectural & Design Books and Supplies store has everything a drafter (or aspiring architect) could ever dream of owning. It carries titles in design, architecture, graphics, landscaping, urban design and interiors, and also offers design products, including fine pens and pencils for both writing and drafting, glassware, table settings, Aalto stools and Stendig lamps. One wall displays the store’s best selection of notebooks, pads, drawing paper and desk accessories. Maybe you’ll walk in and find the perfect gift, but if overwhelmed you can always pick up a gift certificate so your loved one can pick out exactly what they desire.

3. Seattle Architecture Foundation tour

architecture tour

Photo: Tiffany Von Arnim/Flickr

The Seattle Architecture Foundation offers several community and downtown tours at reasonable prices. You can learn about Seattle’s ornate art deco skyscrapers, design details such as walruses and lions and dive into history on the Pioneer Square tour. Tours are $15 in advance ($10 for members) or $25 on the day of the event. Online registration is handled through Bold Type Tickets, and more information is available here.

4. Architectural model of the Pioneer Square pergola

pioneer square pergola

Photo: Thomas Houha Designs/Etsy

Etsy is the ultimate go-to for the crafty designer in your life. This DIY model kit of the famous pergola in Pioneer Square makes a fantastic gift for model builders, architects, engineers and anyone who loves historic Seattle landmarks. Your builder friend can create an accurate representation of this architectural beauty and display it for all to see.

5. “Tom Kundig: Works” by Tom Kundig

Tom Kundig, a celebrated Seattle-based architect presents 18 new projects in his latest book. In firsthand accounts, Kundig describes the projects and his design process using personal anecdotes, almost like a memoir. Kundig was a 2008 recipient of a Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award and was elected to the National Academy of Arts and Letters in 2007. Kundig’s firm Olson Kundig was named firm of the year in 2009 by the AIA. More recently, Olson Kundig has been tapped to design a new cultural hub at Seattle’s King Street Station and a Noah’s Ark-themed museum in Berlin.

Happy hunting!

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