Tag Archives: Greenman Elementary School

NUMBER 101 AND THE MAKING OF A VIDEO

May 31, 2019

Within the studio of Poon Design Inc.: raw, industrial, collaborative and exploratory.

For myself, I applaud. Today I am publishing my 101st essay on this platform! In traditional terms, this effort would constitute a 500-page book, not even counting photos. For this blog (web-log: for those who don’t know), I have avoided writing silly tweets, mere blurbs and convenient commentary. Instead, I have sought to author articles of substantial thought—researched, illustrated and well composed. To accompany this 101st article, a video was created on Poon Design Inc., by videographer, Grant Bozigian.

Our design for a seminal 120,000-square-foot Asian lifestyle center for Orange County. First floor: Asian seafood market. Second floor: Korean spa. Third floor: Japanese karaoke bar. Fourth floor: Chinese garden restaurant.

I invite you to watch our video here .

As we started this project, I studied videos about architecture companies. Some too long, some too short, some weirdly paced, and some with no substance at all. Most of the corporate marketing videos had a talking head in a suit, usually an old white guy talking tediously about being “on budget and on schedule.” Is this content worthy of a video?

One video from a prestigious design company used a single gimmick: staff members talking about a certain material they like, such as stone or metal. Interesting as an idea, yes—but over and over again? I endlessly watched one anonymous staffer after another approaching the camera with a big piece of glass or tile. It’s a one-trick pony.

I was unfortunate to run across a video that didn’t show any images of the architecture, which I assume is what most audiences want to see. Instead, this architect presented the company’s logo in various animated forms. It was absurd, and I wondered: Who cares?

Studies of skylight shades, first hand sketched, then made into a small desktop model, followed by a half-size mock up, finally milled out of plywood and installed at the restaurant, Din Tai Fung at South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, and Din Tai Fung at The American at Brand, Glendale, California.

I found the poor videos shocking, because a video is very architectural—in that it is spatial, experiential, and a journey through time. Shouldn’t an architect be able to conceive of a creative video, just as she would design a creative building?

Me at a Steinway concert grand in Palos Verdes, California.

With the making of our video, I sought to tell a story, as well as show images of the work of Poon Design. The video is in three parts: a little about me, who we are as a studio and what we do, and finally, our interest in the creative process and storytelling. I hope you enjoy it. Our videographer also composed the music, except of course for the beginning which I thank J.S. Bach for his Praeludium from Partita No. 1 in B flat major, BMV 825.

The Goodyear blimp hovers over our WV Mixed-Use Project in Manhattan Beach, California, while a jet does a flyby at our C.A.P. Mixed-Use project in Mid-City Los Angeles, California.

Look for some wonderful details. Avoiding the cliché, often-ridiculed-Ken-Burns-panning of photographs, we animated some still images with a subtle motion between the foreground and background. The first project starts with a fortunate footage catching the Goodyear blimp in the sky. Complementing this, an airplane soars through a computer rendering later in the video. My company video ends with the same project from the start, but now at dusk, as the design goes to sleep.

Our creative process.

We show not just the pretty pictures of our designs, but also the creative mess behind it: our disorganized but sincere desks, dusty cardboard models, color pencils in entropy, sketches of good and bad ideas, the typical rolls and rolls of drawings, and an artist’s palette of acrylic paints.

One of my passions: making mixed-media art.

 

STICKS & STONES | STEEL & GLASS : ONE ARCHITECT’S JOURNEY

September 16, 2016

First draft of manuscript (photo by Anthony Poon)

Hearing intriguing tales of being an architect, friends conjure up ideas like, “You should have a reality TV series,” “You should go on a talk show,” “You should blog about it,” or “You should write a book.” The first two suggestions are absurd. The third: Done.

Trapped in the Riyadh customs line at the King Khalid International Airport: an eight-hour wait, arms guards, no sitting, no talking, no food, no water, no sleeping, no restroom, no joking (photo by Anthony Poon)
Trapped in the Riyadh customs line at the King Khalid International Airport: an eight-hour wait, armed guards, no sitting, no talking, no food, no water, no sleeping, no restroom, no joking (photo by Anthony Poon)

So I chose the fourth one.

After a construction visit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, I was stranded in the Frankfurt airport for an afternoon. It was here that I started writing down some of my tales. By the end of the flight home, I possessed an overwrought flurry of 25,000 words and twenty chapters. A month later, 50,000 words.

Another month later, I had completed an 80,000-word, 450-page manuscript. I also connected with an editor in Chicago and another in New York, Carl Lennertz, also my book’s marketing director. Not long after came my agent, Bond Literary Agency, and my publisher, Unbridled Books.

Initially inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, I thought: Hey, I could do that—write a tell-all sordid saga about the underbelly of architecture. The audience was there. Architecture was already everywhere . The world was brimming with endless television shows on design, a gazillion style magazines, websites and blogs, design brands and celebrity fans, passion plays like going green and prefab homes, design as lifestyle, “design-thinking” in everything from business school to scientific research, and Hollywood’s infatuation with architects .

My sketches and musings
My sketches and musings

But I realized that though a few outbursts and secrets would be entertaining, my book should not be a career-killer. So enough of that. No outrageous Bourdain “pirate” attitude for me. The noble and artistic side of architecture deserved something else.

Cover-Web

Entitled Sticks & Stones | Steel & Glass: One Architect’s Journey, my book is part critique, part behind-the-scenes, and part auto-biographical—examining the role of architecture and its creative process in daily life.

The publisher cites, “In this personal and revealing book, we are taken on a creative journey inside a purposive yet open mind always hoping to ‘design it all,’ to weave together light and material, culture and commerce, music and design, a good meal and the joy of gathering to share it.

“In these pages, we engage the artistic processes of a thoughtful and intense architect whose works—public and private—strive to enhance his clients’ stories and identities. In every building designed by Anthony Poon, art is shelter and architecture is a social good.”

Greenman Elementary School, Aurora, Illinois, by Anthony Poon, awarded the National Grand Prize from Learning By Design, AIA and National School Boards Association, also received awards from KnowledgeWorks Foundation, DesignShare, IASB, IASA, IASBO, School Planning and Management, and American School & University Magazine (w/ A4E and Cordogan, Clark & Associates, photo by Mark Ballogg)
Greenman Elementary School, Aurora, Illinois, by Anthony Poon, awarded the National Grand Prize from Learning By Design, AIA and National School Boards Association, also received awards from KnowledgeWorks Foundation, DesignShare, IASB, IASA, IASBO, School Planning and Management, and American School & University Magazine (w/ A4E and Cordogan, Clark & Associates, photo by Mark Ballogg)

My book is not a memoir (too pretentious), although it is somewhat the trace of chapters of my life. This book is not a catalog of my work, not a marketing puff piece, not a Taschen-style glossy coffee table book. I do examine some projects that have most engaged me across my career—schools, a homeless shelter, and even a chocolate factory, and the artistic processes that delivered them.

Vosges Haut-Chocolat Factory, Chicago, Illinois, by Poon Design, Recipient of the 2013 Award of Excellence for the Industrial Redevelopment of the Year, from the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks (w/ Ware Malcomb, photo by Anthony Poon)
Vosges Haut-Chocolat Factory, Chicago, Illinois, by Poon Design, Recipient of the 2013 Award of Excellence for the Industrial Redevelopment of the Year, from the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks (w/ Ware Malcomb, photo by Anthony Poon)
Pondering my second book (photo by Mikel Healey)
Pondering my second book (photo by Mikel Healey)

As for the title? “Sticks and stones may break my bones . . .” opens the famous childhood rhyme. And despite what the public, media and colleagues say of my work and me, “Names will never hurt me.”

Additionally, just as sticks and stones are primitive building blocks, steel and glass are today’s elements of expression. In designing architecture, I have endeavored to find balance in the rough and the smooth, the solid and the ephemeral. So too with Sticks & Stones | Steel & Glass.

Reserve your copy now at Amazon.

ARCHITECTURE FOR LEARNING

August 28, 2015

Multipurpose building, Feather River Academy, Yuba City, California, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E, photo by Gregory Blore)

Certainly, Poon Design has designed luxury estates for A-listers, Michelin-rated restaurants, and hospitality projects for cities like Beverly Hills.

Moreover, Poon Design thrives for a greater good. We embrace our opportunities for a higher social purpose, where vital agendas advance the lives of individuals and their communities. Of all our project types, we find ourselves grounded when designing educational buildings and campuses.

The school is one of the most influential works of architecture. Whether for a child, teenager, young adult or lifelong learner, architecture for knowledge substantiates one’s existence. Poon Design’s solutions promote curiosity, embrace social interaction, and inspire leadership, whether it is for an elementary school, student union or university library.

I have been fortunate, having designed over 50 educational projects. Focusing on young students, the four schools below tell my story of designing for Pre-K to 12th grade. (Future posts will discuss my work for higher education.)

Central courtyard, Bel Air Presbyterian Preschool, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (rendering by Mike Amaya)
Central courtyard, Bel Air Presbyterian Preschool, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (rendering by Amaya)

BEL AIR PRESBYTERIAN PRESCHOOL, Los Angeles, California

As the first structured environment a child experiences, a preschool serves as both an introduction to the world and one’s first civic duty. At 23,000 square feet perched high in the Santa Monica Mountains, our “Village of Discovery” is ambitious: 120 students, 11 classrooms, 5 play yards, 3 pavilions for library/music/art, multipurpose hall, and administration building.

Poon Design’s vision delivers a community of small scaled, cedar buildings with large sheltering overhangs. Features include bamboo classroom flooring, butterfly and hummingbird gardens, and an amphitheater.

Central courtyard, Bel Air Presbyterian Preschool, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (rendering by Mike Amaya)
Central courtyard, Bel Air Presbyterian Preschool, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (rendering by Amaya)

GREENMAN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, West Aurora, Illinois

This 63,000-square foot school finds innovative ways for the performing arts to flourish. The extra-wide staircase doubles as audience seating for impromptu performances. Second story balconies overlook double height spaces. Window compositions express rhythm and harmony. The 700 students are arranged in seven Small Learning Communities, alongside facilities for students of Aurora University—for hands-on, in-classroom training of future teachers.

top: Lobby and amphitheater staircase; bottom: Street façade, Greenman Elementary School, Aurora, Illinois, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E and Cordogan, Clark & Associates, photos by Mark Ballogg)
top: Lobby and amphitheater staircase; bottom: Street façade, Greenman Elementary School, Aurora, Illinois, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E and Cordogan, Clark & Associates, photos by Mark Ballogg)

HERGET MIDDLE SCHOOL, West Aurora, Illinois

With the metaphor of the American heartland, our 113,000-square foot school for 850 students sits as a heroic farmhouse on the 38-acre rural property.

Why do most schools have a monotonous narrow hallway, flanked by metal lockers? For our design, the light filled hallway is no hallway. It is 60 feet wide (not the standard 12 feet) and 30 feet tall (not the standard 9 feet). Rather than merely circulation, our groundbreaking energy-filled hall IS the library, technology center, life skills lab, and wood shop. Field stone, standing seam metal, brick walls, and wood plank details capture the vernacular design metaphor. Roof lines recall the old barns that once stood on the site.

top: Technology center and “Grand Hall”; bottom: Overall view, Herget Middle School, Aurora, Illinois, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E and Cordogan, Clark & Associates, photos by Mark Ballogg)
top: Technology center and “Grand Hall”; bottom: Overall view, Herget Middle School, Aurora, Illinois, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E and Cordogan, Clark & Associates, photos by Mark Ballogg)

FEATHER RIVER ACADEMY, Yuba City, California

Rather than design a single building with parking in front and playfields in back, we explore the school’s mission statement of “Learning in Action,” by interweaving the program across the entire property. The 25,000 square foot, 180-student school serves students referred by the probation department, expelled by their local schools, or even homeless.

Our undulating roofs create an ever-changing journey—symbolic of the path of learning. The campus itself is an open textbook, where aspects of the architecture teaches. As one example, the paving has the solar system inscribed in the concrete, where the paths of the planets arc throughout the property. An illustration of Pluto marks the school’s entry, Earth is described in the central courtyard, and the sun is represented by an eight-foot tall sundial.

top: Special education building and classroom buildings; bottom: Multipurpose and administration buildings, Feather River Academy, Yuba City, California, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E, photos by Gregory Blore)
top: Special education building and classroom buildings; bottom: Multipurpose and administration buildings, Feather River Academy, Yuba City, California, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E, photos by Gregory Blore)

We are honored to have received dozens of local and national design awards from KnowledgeWorks, DesignShare, Edutopia, Illinois Association of School Boards, and the American School & University Magazine, just to name a few.

Most significantly, our work has been honored twice with the National Grand Prize, given jointly from Learning By Design, The American Institute of Architects, and National School Boards Associations—for the best designed school in the country.

“School District 129 is fortunate to have Anthony Poon learn about us, and capture our spirit and beliefs about education in the buildings we will build for our children. I believe that Anthony’s thinking and his work is extraordinary, and will find its way to many honors. He will create the future dreams of this nation.” – Dr. Sherry Eagle, former Superintendent in West Aurora, Illinois, and Executive Director for the Institute for Collaboration at Aurora University.

THE MUSIC OF DESIGN

June 20, 2015

Courtyard of Greenman Elementary School, Aurora, Illinois, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E, photo by George Lambros)

I believe that both music and architecture are languages. Through music and architecture, I can speak to an audience.

When I play the piano, whether it is a classic or my own composition, I tell a story. This narrative, my point of view, is also why I create architecture. In both music and architecture, I can tell a story to a single person, or to an audience of 10,000. I have created both musical and architectural experiences of sensation, character and emotion—over a passage of time—whether playing a short piece of Chopin’s for a friend, or creating a university library in which students begin the work of realizing their dreams.

Anthony Poon’s 1957 Lindeman piano
Anthony Poon’s 1957 Lindeman piano

Performing any work of music requires interpretation, and so it is for architecture. A civic center, a hospital, or a garden may be fully constructed as a physical environment, seemingly complete, but as a work of art, it can be visited, read and interpreted over and over again, in many different ways. Architecture is open ended, even incomplete.

A museum offers a different experience, as the empty vessel of a building is filled each time with the latest installation from a new artist. One room of a house might have begun as a family room, and later converted to a gym or office. Even if a person visits the same church every Sunday for decades, and the church itself has not physically changed, she or he may find new significance with each visit.

With music and all forms of architecture, a visitor is given the privilege to engage the work, and possibly declare it something quite different from the author’s intentions—here, the composer or the architect being the author. William Day, writer of jazz and art, stated: “Whatever is expressed in art leaves something unexpressed, and it is that which charms the imagination.”

Concept sketch for Greenman Elementary School, by Anthony Poon
Concept sketch for Greenman Elementary School, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E)

Leon Battista Alberti, an architect of the Renaissance, offered this: “Characteristics that please the eye, also please the ear.”

There are further similarities between my two fields of interest, of passion.

Both have structure. For architecture, it is gravity and the engineering feats of columns and walls holding up a roof. For music, it is a measure of time per bar. Within this, there is duration of beats that must mathematically equal the measure, i.e. one measure must have four quarter beats, or two half beats.

Both music and architecture have enhancements to the structure, whether it is arches and windows, or melody and rhythm.

Both music and architecture have further embellishments, whether it is tile, wood and stone, or harmonies and chords.

Both music and architecture have pattern and repetition, such as a sequence of roof trusses and floor pattern, or a repeating lyrical motif.

Street façade of Greenman Elementary School, Aurora, Illinois, by Anthony Poon (while w/ A4E, photo by Mark Ballogg
Street façade of Greenman Elementary School, Aurora, Illinois, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E, photo by Mark Ballogg)

As a young child, I banged on the piano until music came out of my hands. I also banged on wood blocks until architecture came out of my hands. I have enjoyed my journeys as both a musician and an architect. I enjoy that both have rules, such as the science of gravity in architecture and the science of sound waves in music. I like to embrace the rules, create within the rules, and then break them.

© Poon Design Inc.