Tag Archives: CHAYA

LIMITED BY THE TOOLS OF THE TRADE

July 12, 2019

Old days of architectural drafting (photo from Archinect)

For most architects, the design starts inside the brain. We are then challenged to extract that creative spark out of our head and on to paper, or these days, on to a computer screen. Urgently, we grasps at the tools of our trade to convert the abstract ideas into some visual form of communication, i.e., the sketch on the back of an envelope, the first computer drawing, or the crude paper model.

Often, our ideas are grander, more ambitious, than any tool can capture. Tools have limits, whereas our artistic spirits do not.

T-square and triangle (drawing from etc.usf.edu)

The old days of architecture embraced simple non-mechanical tools, such as the T-square and the triangle. This allowed us to merely draw parallel lines and only four angles—30, 45, 60 and 90 degrees. If our brain generated an architectural idea with a curved shape or at an 18.5 degree angle, our tools were challenged to capture the idea.

A new tool came along: the adjustable triangle. No longer a static piece of wood or plastic—this tool was mechanical, moving upon its little hinge. The adjustable triangle freed the architect to now make any angle of choice. During school, we used to joke by pointing out when students purchased his/her first adjustable triangle, because  their drawings all of a sudden had a new complexity of diagonal lines.

The adjustable triangle (photo by Anthony Poon)
Lost tools of the trade (photo by Anthony Poon)

Alongside other instruments such as the compass, French curves, elliptical templates, etc., new ideas could be expressed. Architecture started to have move diagonals, more curves, more complexity. Again, we poked fun, “With these new house designs and the angles, Frank Lloyd Wright must have purchased fancier drawings tools for his staff!”

Floor plan of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona

A quantum leap in communicating design ideas arrived with digital technology. These days, almost anything architects can dream up can be captured using today’s devices. With algorithms, computers are not just communicating ideas that are in our heads, but are generating ideas without our heads.

Using a parametric algorithm with the software, Grasshopper, to design a trellis structure in South Pasadena, California, by Poon Design. The material is polyethylene panels, the same plastic as kitchen cutting boards—used to express the home owner’s passion for cooking (photo by Sharon Yang)

Here is the question: just because we can think it, just because we can draw it, just because we can build it—should we? Just because software can describe a heroic complex form (like CATIA for Frank Gehry), just because a computer can document a complex pattern for water jet cutting a sheet of steel, just because 3ds Max and Maxwell Render can produce a near photographically realistic image, should we have technology replace the use of our brains and our hands?

Taiyan Museum of Art, China (photo from imagenesmy.com)
Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku, Azerbaijan (photo from igsmag.com)

One example: If you tour an architecture school or many architecture design studios, you will see the excessive use of the 3d printer. With limited time on the computer and a few clicks of the mouse, dozens of physical models of a particular design theme are produced in plastic. I argue that most of these variations-on-a-theme are insignificant. Just because an architect can generate 20 similar ideas, doesn’t mean that all these ideas have merit. Wouldn’t it be better to develop one idea carefully, strategically and thoughtfully?

My personal preference is to design ideas that are more hand crafted, then machine produced—relying more on heart than tools.

Garden lights using handwoven baskets from Ten Thousand Villages, a nonprofit fair trade organization sourcing from Africa. The light source is in the ground shining up into the basket, providing a soft downward glow, by Poon Design (photo by Poon Design)

TEN THOUGHTS, TEN MINUTES

April 13, 2018

Beams of desert sun breaking between the mountains, entering the master bedroom suite. Modern Villa, Monte Sereno, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Lance Gerber)

Take ten minutes and get ten thoughts for your design project.

Besides architecture, these ten thoughts can apply to many other pursuits, from graphic design to gardening, from composing music to creating life itself. (All designs by Anthony Poon and/or Poon Design Inc.)

 

1. LIGHT

An entry hall welcomes the morning light. Residence G, Linea, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by The Agency)

Luminosity, natural or artificial, places a static environment into motion.

 

2. PATTERN

Color bands of brick and concrete on the walls, with color bands of slate on the roof. DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, photo by HHPA)

Give your surroundings pace and tempo. Rhythm isn’t just for music.

 

3. COLOR

Shower tile: four shades of green glass tiles by Ann Sacks. S/B House, Encino, California, by Poon Design (photo by Poon Design)

Colors make surfaces recede or stand out. At turns, colors soothe and enliven.

 

4. CRAFT

Vaudeville signage and reclaimed wood planks, with blackened custom steel details. Mendocino Farms, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (photo by Poon Design)

A thoughtful, well-constructed project will last a lifetime, and even change in meaning over time.

 

5. TEXTURE

Textures of ground face and split face concrete block, vertical redwood siding and corrugated galvanized metal siding. Special Education classroom, Feather River Academy, Yuba City, California, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E, photo by Gregory Blore)

Texture gives the body something to touch and the eye something to eat.

 

6. SURPRISE

A cow makes a surprising appearance, as well as vibrant wallcovering within. Arcadia Residence, Escena, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Lance Gerber)

Unexpected moments deliver flair and amazement. Predictable architecture is boring.

 

7. SCALE

A mix of scales: small classrooms within a big atrium. Herget Middle School, West Aurora, Illinois, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E, photo by Mark Ballogg)

Grand scale is heroic. Small scale is intimate. Choose the appropriate scale for the activity in mind.

 

8. HUMOR

Two unlikely bright colors make up a stimulating composition. Roberto Lane, Bel Air, California, by Poon Design (photo by Anthony Poon)

Why can’t architecture have wit, irony and charm? It should.

 

9. COURAGE

Gateway to the city. Proposed new Reds Baseball Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio, by Anthony Poon (w/ NBBJ, photo by John Lodge)

Chase your dreams. Don’t be timid. And it might take some guts and perseverance to get results.

 

10. PLEASURE

Private dining areas as glowing lanterns. Chaya Downtown, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (rendering by Biolinia)

Good design should challenge you and please you. Architecture might test you, but know that delight and satisfaction are close.

JAZZ-LIKE: THE CURIOUS THING ABOUT STYLE, PART 2 OF 2

March 3, 2016

Kit-O-Parts concept model for Chaya Downtown, Los Angeles, by Poon Design

What can architecture learn from jazz? Specifically, what can architects designing buildings learn from musicians creating jazz?

I recently posted my design approach as two parts: Product and Process. In that post, I discussed the ‘Product’ being works of juxtaposition.  In today’s post, I explore my ‘Process’ being jazz-like.

Conference room pin-up wall for a chapel for an Air Force retirement community, San Antonio, Texas, by Poon Design
Conference room pin-up wall for a chapel for an Air Force retirement community, San Antonio, Texas, by Poon Design

Many things bog an architect down, such as calculations that ensure a structure won’t collapse. Budgets, city codes, and construction surprises also burden us. The nature of our day to day design work is slow and tedious. From start to finish, a completed building requires years or decades. Even generations. Whether Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica or a local wine store, the architectural process is sluggish and overwrought. At times, painfully so.

With graphic design, on the other hand, a logo can be designed and implemented efficiently. In less than a month, boom, the logo appears on a website. (Sorry, my graphic artists’ friends, I know it is much more complicated than this, but in comparison . . .)

Process for “Sexy Conversation,” 40” x 40”, mixed media, by Anthony Poon
Process for “Sexy Conversation,” 40” x 40”, mixed media, by Anthony Poon

In jazz, musicians sit at their instruments, glance at each other, perhaps a wink, then a smile. And boom: music. A jam session begins, and the audience immediately enjoys the sounds and rhythms.

Spontaneity and improvisation are words that describe jazz. In contrast, as a classically-trained pianist, I was taught a mindset akin to architecture, where at great lengths and with agony, each and every move is carefully conditioned and rigorously rational.

When performing Liszt, I wouldn’t just discard the sheet music and riff on an Etude. Or maybe I would, but then it becomes something other than Liszt—and that might not be good. With architecture, I wouldn’t just discard the structural calculations for a hillside foundation and doodle my own geotechnical assumptions. A well-built castle isn’t constructed on sand.

Study models for a chapel for an Air Force retirement community, San Antonio, Texas, by Poon Design
Study models for a chapel for an Air Force retirement community, San Antonio, Texas, by Poon Design

Is there room for speed in architecture? How about intuition? Social psychologist David Sudnow comments on jazz as moving “. . . from no one place in particular to no one place in particular . . .” I wish architecture had this kind of freedom.

Though I can’t actually be like a jazz pianist playing impromptu, I still try. Every day, I attempt to hand draw ideas freely without the constraints of either a T-square or the laptop. Rather than picking the appropriate shade of olive from the Pantone color book, I use my color markers and pencils. Swiftly and even blindly, I grab at colors, blending in a mad flurry seeking hues of discovery and spontaneity.

Anthony Poon’s drafting table
Anthony Poon’s drafting table

Jazz and juxtaposition—two words I might use to describe my work. Very likely, I will replace these two words with different words the next time an interviewer asks me, “What is your style?” In the end, I leave the labeling of the work to the historians, intellectuals, critics, and fans. When I am long gone, I hope my design legacy is given a provocative designation of style.

(For more, see a feature on my process at The Art Issue of LA Home magazine.)

Anthony Poon’s sketches, studies and notes
Anthony Poon’s sketches, studies and notes

BE ORIGINAL, BE REMEMBERED

August 14, 2015

Chandelier and dining room at Chaya Downtown, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (photo by Gregg Segal)

Design enables life to be vibrant. Design resonates.

Be creative. Be original. Be remembered.

At Poon Design Inc., we believe architecture communicates more than aesthetics. Architecture communicates ideas. Architecture expresses everything from our culture and the community we live in, to the specific needs and solutions for each of our clients. We call this content.

Design tells a story. Whether it is the design of letterhead or a blog, a restaurant or a hospital, the design says who the client is. And who the client aspires to be.

Mural and sushi counter at Chaya Downtown, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (photo by Gregg Segal)
Mural and sushi counter at Chaya Downtown, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (photo by Gregg Segal)

At our restaurant design for Chaya in downtown Los Angeles, the style of their cuisine, Asian Fusion, inspired our architecture. We fused the modern world with traditional Japanese culture. At one end of the restaurant, an art installation/chandelier comprises 1,500 plastic toys, created in collaboration with British sculpture Stuart Haygarth. At the other end, Japanese artist Ajioka hand painted a 35-foot wide, classical Asian landscape mural on planks of Hinoki Cypress.

For the bar, Poon Design transformed a Venetian mirror into an ambitious element that frames the area and the experience. Rather than the traditional Venetian technique of layered mirrored surfaces, we laser back-etched mirrored panels with our own modern interpretation of the historic European patterns. Carrara marble, brass sheets from Spain and blackened metal details complete the composition.

Bar at Chaya Downtown, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (photo by Gregg Segal)
Bar at Chaya Downtown, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (photo by Gregg Segal)

Our aggressive spirit to embrace and further a client’s identity extended far beyond architecture and interior design. Sure, we custom designed the furniture, the lighting and the landscape. But we also designed Chaya’s graphic products, from business cards to ad posters, from website to matchbook covers, from event packages to menus.

Ads for the Chaya restaurants, by Sue and Danny Yee with Poon Design
Ads for the Chaya restaurants, by Sue and Danny Yee with Poon Design

We went further. We curated the art and interior styling, and even provided commentary on the waiter uniforms.

Still no stopping. As is a personal passion of mine, Poon Design assisted in the programming of the restaurant’s music, ensuring that the acoustic atmosphere coalesced with the architecture. Both the physical environment and the aural environment evolved together as the day progressed: from brunch, lunch, happy hour, dinner, to late night drinks.

Our Chaya project was honored with an international design award from The American Institute of Architects for Best Restaurant.

Private dining room and garden patio at Chaya Downtown, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (photo by Gregg Segal)
Private dining room and garden patio at Chaya Downtown, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (photo by Gregg Segal)

Poon Design’s design process is a journey, one that involves vision, creativity and artistry. When we design, we take the client on a trek that leads to delightful discoveries of higher purpose. We also balance our lofty aims with the grunt work of logistics—agency approvals, budgets, schedules, and maintenance.

We believe good design is the architecture of place-making. It is the art of making certain that when a visitor arrives at your project, he or she comprehends the ambitions behind it.

In the end, it boils down to essence. Good design is the challenge of capturing the essence of a project, revealing it in distinctive physical form. Good design means breaking new ground to build something groundbreaking. Good design means forsaking the tried-and-true for something exceptional, something that is potent.

© Poon Design Inc.