It is that time of year again when we think about giving and receiving gifts. Last year, I shared my ideas on the perfect gifts for planners in Presents for Plannerds which has turned out to be one of my more popular articles. This suggests to me that: a) planners are generous and want to find gifts for their colleagues; b) planners are eager to find unique gifts for themselves; c) planners just have some really good friends who want to get them the perfect present; and/or d) all of the above. All joking aside, I am pleased that my list has been helpful to some folks. While most of the items I mentioned in 2013 are still valid and available, I would like to highlight various new products that I learned about this year. Without further ado, here is my 2014 edition of Presents for Plannerds:
Not surprisingly, plannerds like me love to read and/or collect books. Listed below are books that I highly recommend:
- A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America (2013): This is a very interesting book with excellent infographics. As a city dweller, I agree with author Vishaan Chakrabarti’s manifesto to build a country of cities. However, the book may be a hard sell for planners and residents in more rural and suburban areas. Nevertheless, I think that all planners, regardless of the setting in which you currently work or live in, can gain something from this eloquently written book.
- Railtown: The Fight for the Los Angeles Metro Rail and the Future of the City (2014): As a regular Metro rider and a fan of rail travel in general, I find this book very enlightening and helpful. In particular, it does a great job telling the history of the Metro system by drawing on archival documents, contemporary news accounts, and interviews with many of the key players to provide insightful behind-the-scenes accounts of the people and forces that shaped the system.
- Los Angeles Union Station (2014): The book accompanies the exhibition No Further West which I previously wrote about in the article The Story of Union Station in Los Angeles. This is a wonderful book to have for anyone interested in Union Station, a celebrated architectural icon and vibrant centerpiece of Los Angeles’s regional transportation network. Noteworthy is that this volume contains new research and beautiful drawings from the Getty Research Institute’s archive.
- On Track: A Field Guide to San Francisco’s Historic Streetcars & Cable Cars (2014): As I shared in Vintage Public Transit, I highly recommend this book by author Rick Laubscher if you want to learn more about San Francisco’s streetcars and cable cars. This field guide tells the remarkable stories of each of San Francisco’s streetcars and cable cars. Detailed illustrations and specifications accompany the description of each vehicle. The book even includes a trainspotter’s checklist at the back of the guide for keeping track of the fleet.
- The Urban Sketching Handbook: Architecture and Cityscapes: Tips and Techniques for Drawing on Location (2014): Award-winning illustrator Gabriel Campanario first introduced his approach to drawing in The Art of Urban Sketching, a showcase of more than 500 sketches and drawing tips shared by more than 100 urban sketchers around the world (see my review). In his new book, Campanario lays out keys to help make the experience of drawing architecture and cityscapes fun and rewarding. This book may inspire you to draw more urban spaces, and help to increase your appreciation of the built environment. After all, drawing the places where we live, work, and play, is a great way to show appreciation and creativity.
- APA Bookstore and ULI Bookstore: If none of the above titles interest you, be sure to check out the APA and ULI online book stores which currently offer discounts on a wide variety of planning and real estate development books.
I really enjoy documentaries and recommend the following:
- Designing Healthy Communities: In this special 4-disc DVD set, author and teacher Richard Jackson, MD, MPH, makes the case that the rapidly deteriorating public health of our citizens is linked directly to nearly half-a-century of bad design decisions. Each of the DVDs examines the different impacts our built environment in urban and suburban areas have on key public health indices: obesity, diabetes, heart, asthma, cancer and depression. Dr. Jackson inhabits the frontier between public health and urban planning, and offers us some examples of innovative transformations.
- The City Dark: Have you ever wondered what light pollution is and/or whether it is a big deal? If yes, you should watch this documentary. As I shared in The City Dark and Light Pollution, filmmaker Ian Cheney did a wonderful job with this movie which features stunning astrophotography, easy-to-understand illustrations, and insightful and often humorous comments made by a variety of individuals including (but not limited to): an astrophysicist, boy scouts, a light bulb specialist, a cancer patient, and an epidemiologist. As an amateur astronomer who truly appreciates the dark sky, Cheney was able to offer a very personal, compelling, and unique perspective on the issues of light pollution and the disappearing stars, especially in highly urbanized areas.
- Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America: Frederick Law Olmsted was among the first to regard landscape architecture as a profession and a fine art – in fact, with Calvert Vaux he virtually created that profession. To Olmsted, a park was both a work of art and a necessity for urban life. Olmsted’s efforts to preserve nature created an “environmental ethic” decades before the environmental movement became a force in American politics. With wonderful cinematography, creative animation, and compelling commentary, this DVD presents the biography of a man whose parks and preservation are an essential part of American life.
If you are looking for plannerdy clothing items, here is what I recommend:
- Zazzle: If you do a search on “urban planning” on Zazzle’s website, you will find that it offers all types of apparel and other gifts suitable for plannerds. For example, Zazzle offers T-shirts with sayings like “Urban Planning Genius,” “I do my own Urban Planning Stunts,” “Eat, Sleep, Plan,” “Ask me about urban planning,” and “Master of Urban Planning”. Also available are aprons, hats, and ties.
- Planetizen: The Planetizen store offers a variety of fun items for planners as well, including: neckties imprinted with detailed city or transit maps; T-shirts with city maps; silk scarves with city maps; and necklaces with pendants that are engraved on a cedar charm with a mini map of selected cities. Non-clothing items include: city coasters with hand-drawn engraved maps of your favorite neighborhood, map-themed water bottles, decorative collectible porcelain plates with downtown cores imprinted on them, and shoulder tote bags with maps of seven different cities.
Fun and Educational Items
Here is a list of some fun and educational items that some plannerds may be interested in:
- LACMA Membership: For planners in L.A. who enjoy visiting museums, this is the perfect gift. Individual membership comes with twelve full months of art, free admission, invitations to members-only events, discounts at the LACMA Store, and access to Member Previews. LACMA typically offers a number of exhibits which may of special interest to planners. For example, I previously shared about Metropolis II which I believe all planners should see and experience at least once.
- Architecture and Design (A+D) Museum Membership: This museum may be small, but I have always enjoyed its design-focused exhibits. A+D is the only museum in L.A. where continuous exhibits of architecture and design are on view. Through exhibits, symposia, multi-disciplinary projects, educational and community programming, A+D serves as a showcase for the work of important regional, national and international designers, providing a forum for contemporary issues in architecture, urbanism, and design that are helping to shape the city.
- National Geographic map products: Not surprisingly, National Geographic offers an excellent collection of map products, including wall maps, globes, coasters, and puzzles, which many planners may like to have in their homes or offices. If you get on the National Geographic store website, you will also find book, DVDs, clothing, gear and gadgets, and other items on sale.
- 4D City Puzzles: Puzzles are not just for kids; even adults can still enjoy them! 4D Cityscape is a multi-layer puzzle that is fun, challenging, and educational. To build a 4D puzzle, you first assemble the first two layers of the puzzle to form a map of the city’s streets, islands, roads, railways, parks, and geography. When the base layers are complete, you can then add buildings and landmarks onto the puzzle.
- City Greeting Cards: If you are looking for city-themed greeting cards, be sure to visit FineArtAmerica.com which offers a wonderful collection of cards showing city scenes, city skylines, city lights etc. The drawings, paintings, and photographs on the cards are visually stunning, and should brighten any planner’s day.
Of course, the above list is not meant to be exhaustive and just highlights items that I think are good presents for plannerds. I would like to conclude with the same thoughts I shared last year. We have all heard the saying “it is better to give than to receive”. I agree with these words of wisdom and believe that when we have the ability and capacity to give, we should do so. Most plannerds probably would not mind receiving any of the above items. And even s/he does not care for material things, most, if not all, plannerds would appreciate the thought and welcome some words of appreciation, encouragement, and support, especially during this time of year. So be sure to take some time to encourage a fellow planner during this holiday season.
Note: Photos of gifts by author.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone, and do not reflect the official views or positions of the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation.