Tag Archives: DEBARTOLO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER

TRIBUTE: HUGH HARDY EXCLAIMS “HAPPY DAY! ONWARD!” (1932-2017)

March 20, 2017

Renovation of Radio City Music Hall, New York, New York, by Hugh Hardy w/ HHPA (photo by Radio City Music Hall)

I arrived at Hugh Hardy’s New York office in the Flatiron District. Mr. Hardy bellowed, “Anthony! How are you, my fine fellow?”—with a resonance of incredible welcome coupled with the thespianism of a Broadway musical. I visited Hugh’s architecture company only a dozen times, and each time, he greeted me with such sonority that his studio of young architects beamed with joy.

18 West 11th Street, New York, New York, by Hugh Hardy with HHPA (photo by Steve Minor)
18 West 11th Street, New York, New York, by Hugh Hardy with HHPA (photo by Steve Minor)

The field of architecture lost this hero last week, Hugh Hardy. Many can agree that every day, clients and colleagues would bask in Hugh’s warm spotlight. As he enjoyed his long career as if a kid on stage with a receptive audience, our legendary architect would bring his personal theater to Manhattan. For the record, nearly every important performing arts venue in New York City, as well as many other buildings around the country, were graced by Hugh’s architectural talents.

In the late 90’s, I joined Hugh’s company, Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, known also as HHPA. In collaboration with Principal Norman Pfeiffer and his team, I headed up many of the design projects at HHPA’s Los Angeles’ office. Over my five years with the firm, I was fortunate to work on impactful projects: the 150,000 square foot DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at the University of Notre Dame, and the 200,000 square foot library for the American University of Cairo, Egypt—just to name two of dozens.

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top: Library concept sketch for the American University of Cairo, Egypt by Anthony Poon; bottom: completed project by HHPA (photo by Pfeiffer Partners)
top: Library concept sketch for the American University of Cairo, Egypt by Anthony Poon; bottom: completed project by HHPA (photo by Pfeiffer Partners)

When Hugh visited his Los Angeles outpost for my first time, I witnessed his enthusiasm for design, an articulate language of leadership, and incredible showmanship—voice booming with drama and delight.

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top: Northwest Campus concept model for University of California, Los Angeles, by John Fontillas and Anthony Poon; bottom: six completed dormitory towers by HHPA (photo by Elon Schoenholz)
top: Northwest Campus concept model for University of California, Los Angeles, by John Fontillas and Anthony Poon; bottom: six completed dormitory towers by HHPA (photo by Elon Schoenholz)

Then, HHPA landed a big commission: three new dormitories and three renovated ones for UCLA. 2,000 new student beds in total. I represented the Los Angeles studio, and John Fontillas, friend, classmate and colleague (and future design partner to Hugh) represented the New York studio. Traveling east to New York for periodic design sessions, I watched Hugh command the company’s “war room” with grace accompanied by his sharp eye for constructive criticism.

Example: We completed the biggest commission of that period, Soka University—an entire hilltop campus in Southern California built from scratch. 103 acres, 20 college buildings, plazas, courtyards, lake, and so on. At the grand opening, Hugh was demanding, as he smiled, winked, and asked his team, “Is this the best you could do?”

Soka University of America, Aliso Viejo, California, by HHPA (photo from www.sgi-d.org)
Soka University of America, Aliso Viejo, California, by HHPA (photo from www.sgi-d.org)

Some of us laughed, uncertain as to whether it was meant to be serious or funny, inspiring or insulting. Some of us were uneasy that more than five years of our career were dismissed by this father figure of architecture. Most of us knew that Hugh had a vision for this world, and it extended beyond successfully re-envisioning his island of New York City.

Hugh Hardy was of this island. He walked the streets, and he rode the subways. Representing both the dreams of the people and the people themselves, he always reached for the brightest future, one “Happy Day” at a time. “Onward!”

Hugh Hardy in 1987 (photo by Deborah Feingold/Corbis via Getty Images)
Hugh Hardy in 1987 (photo by Deborah Feingold/Corbis via Getty Images)

EIGHT THINGS I LIKE ABOUT ARCHITECTURE

January 6, 2017

Contraband & Freedmen’s Cemetery and Memorial Park, Alexandria, Virginia, by Poon Design (rendering by Zemplinski)

(This list is a follow up to Eight Things I Dislike about Architecture.)

ONE.

The social importance of what we do. Architects design everything from a retreat home to a veterinarian office, from a homeless shelter to a public school, from a park to a temple. Doctors have been plagued by insurance headaches. Bankers have confronted corruption. Well, lawyers? Not too much new to say there. What fields still have nobility?

Concept model for the new Anaheim Cultural District, California, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, photo by Foaad Farah)
Concept model for the new Anaheim Cultural District, California, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, photo by Foaad Farah)

TWO.

Being creative. Whether problem solving the client’s schedule/budget or envisioning a downtown district, architecture is at the wonderful intersection of art, science and business.

THREE.

Always learning. No matter how long one has been an architect, a new graduate or an expert of 50 years—all architects have new things to learn every day. The field is a challenge, and we love challenges. And we enjoy learning about new clients, new companies, new cities, and new institutions—and building new worlds for them.

FOUR.

The diversity of each day. We go from one interesting project to another. In a matter of months, we will have created several new restaurants. But a performing arts center might take five years. Nonetheless, each project is a unique adventure: having design presentations, finding the right species of wood, coordinating with the electrical engineer, debating with city agencies, sketching in my notebook.

840-seat Leighton Concert Hall, DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, photo by HHPA)
840-seat Leighton Concert Hall, DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, photo by HHPA)
“Adorkable” Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Daschanel, in 500 Days of Summer (2009)
“Adorkable” architect  Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Daschanel, in 500 Days of Summer (2009)

FIVE.

It’s just plain cool to be an architect. Many architects have studied various pursuits alongside architecture: art, literature, photography, history, math, and science—and even real estate, publishing, coding and music. Also, thank you to Hollywood and the likes of Tom Hanks, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ellen Page, Keanu Reeves, Henry Fonda, Wesley Snipes, and so many more, for projecting an exciting image of architects in film. See Celluloid Heroes.

SIX.

The entrepreneurial path. Architects can be a designer at a big company or a sole proprietor, a husband-wife studio or a technology manager. Regardless of role, the journey involves independent thinking, creative contributions, business acumen, and risk taking.

SEVEN.

Rewards. Though the rewards are rarely financial, architects are compensated through the growth of our soul, the smiles and handshakes of clients, participating in the realm of beauty, and embracing each year with worthwhile ambition.

Girl’s bedroom, Roberto Residence, by Poon Design (photo by Anthony Poon)
Girl’s bedroom, Roberto Residence, by Poon Design (photo by Anthony Poon)

EIGHT.

Dreams become reality. One day, we are creating abstract concepts in a sketchbook or Revit. Not much later, concrete is poured, steel is erected, windows are installed, and an architect’s vision is constructed for the world to witness.

Leighton Concert Hall under construction, DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, photo by HHPA)
Leighton Concert Hall under construction, DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, photo by HHPA)

WHO WILL BE MY CLIENT?

July 8, 2016

Arena for 2000 Olympics, Sydney, Australia, by Anthony Poon (w/ NBBJ)

In architecture school, our professors provided us with projects to design. Example: For this semester, design a sports arena in San Francisco, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

But here is the thing: How does an architect land such a project after graduation? This is a challenging question to ponder after you leave the comforts of school, after you have made the premature decision to start your own architecture company from your apartment. And you realize that you have no clients. Not a sports arena. Not even a bathroom addition. None at all.

Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy, by Leon Battista Alberti and Giorgio Vasari (photo by wanderfly)
Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy, by Leon Battista Alberti and Giorgio Vasari (photo by wanderfly)

Everyone sees homes, theaters, parks and shopping centers within our communities, but how does an architect get hired to design them?

Many architects would kill for a system I call the Medici Effect. Within such a circumstance, an architect can sustain a career through the loyal patronage of a single client—be it an individual, a retail chain, or a university. This Medici Effect is a client-architect relationship where decade after decade, the faithful client provides the architect with projects.

Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flowers, Florence, Italy, by Arnolfo di Cambio (photo by Petar Milosevic)
Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flowers, Florence, Italy, by Arnolfo di Cambio (photo by Petar Milosevic)

From the 15th to the 18th century, the Medici family reigned supreme in Florence. As wool merchants initially, then formidable bankers later, this family commissioned Renaissance painters, sculptors and writers. And yes, architects too.

Alongside hiring painters Michelangelo, Raphael and Rubens, and the scientist Galileo, the Medici’s supported architects most of all: Alberti, Vasari, Buontalenti and Bartolomeo, just to name a few. As one of the most powerful clans throughout Europe, the Medici family bankrolled the entire career of any architect of their choosing, as well as completing building upon building—from palaces to churches, from museums to hospitals.

Pterodactyle, Culver City, California, by Eric Owen Moss Architects (photo by Architect)
Pterodactyle, Culver City, California, by Eric Owen Moss Architects (photo by Architect)
Samitaur Tower, Culver City, California, by Eric Owen Moss Architects (photo by Tom Bonner)
Samitaur Tower, Culver City, California, by Eric Owen Moss Architects (photo by Tom Bonner)

Though a wonderful tale from hundreds of years ago, this Medici Effect does continue today. A contemporary example can be found in Culver City, where a husband/wife, client/developer team of Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith has sustained a 30-year patronage of Eric Owen Moss Architects. Project after project, the Smiths have produced a city-scale portfolio of buildings through the talents of this single architect

During fortunate periods of my career, my Medici’s have appeared in the form of developers, retiring architects, friends, and even a public school district. What I have learned so far, if I have learned anything at all, is that an architect should base a career on relationships not contracts. If an architect’s entire career revolves around one hundred projects, it is better to find ten patrons that might each give you ten commissions vs. finding one hundred individual clients.

It should be taught in architecture schools, and it should be a directive at the workplace: Build relationships and attract clients. At many law firms, entry-level attorneys, even paralegals, are requested to bring in clients.

DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, photo by Pfeiffer Partners)
DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, photo by Pfeiffer Partners)

Architecture is not just about earth shattering design, but about marketing, business development and public relations. If you are simple minded, call it “schmoozing.” If you are intelligent, call it good business. And, if you are human, call it survival.

© Poon Design Inc.