Tag Archives: PROCESS

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.

 

ARCHITECTURE FROM A TO Z

April 29, 2016

Campus Library, American University in Cairo, New Cairo, Egypt, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, photo by Pfeiffer Partners)

ALLOWANCE
Allow creative ideas to resonate in your head. Like wine aging in a bottle, the clamor of an idea seasoning in your cranium is called imagination.

BE
Be original. Be remembered. If you do the same thing over and over again, you will always get the same results, of which, most have already been done, or might be boring and forgettable.

CREATE
The medium of our art is not just pens and paper, paint and canvas, or software and megabytes. The medium of our art is life itself. Design your world.

Arcadia Residence, Palm Springs, by Poon Design (photo by Lance Gerber)
Arcadia Residence, Palm Springs, by Poon Design (staging by Interior Illusions, photo by Lance Gerber)

DIVISION
There should be no divisions between architecture, graphics, landscape, fashion, poetry, music, photography, theater, and all artistic endeavors. In the act of creation, design industries must overlap and blur, operating as a comprehensive force of artistry. Our contribution to progress and civilization.

Mystery and Melancholy of a Street, by Giorgio de Chirico, 1914
Mystery and Melancholy of a Street, by Giorgio de Chirico, 1914

EXISTING
Promote society’s advancements, and acknowledge the legacy of traditions. Beware: nostalgia can be a yearning for a false past that either does not apply today, or never truly existed. “Nostalgia” is made up of two Greek roots: nostos “returning home,” and algos “pain.”

FOCUS
Focus. Listen. Don’t forget what you have heard.

GATHER
Design communicates more than aesthetics. Design communicates ideas: everything from our culture and community, to the solutions for each client. We call this content.

HIGH TO LOW
Our work explores everything, from high art to pop art, from Schubert to So You Think You Can Dance.

Jeanine Mason on So You Think You Can Dance
Jeanine Mason on So You Think You Can Dance

IS
Form is function, and function is form. Style is not superficial. Though a purist, don’t assume that style is only artificial. That trap is known as pretentious unpretentiousness. Understand style as the expression of character.

JUICE
Design is about thinking strategically. As in chess, plan all your moves. Start by seeing a few moves ahead, then grasp for more. This is called experience.

KIN
All works of art are in progress. A good idea advances, evolves, and changes.

LEVERS
Good design balances imagination and reality. Architecture must balance greatness and fantasy, with things like schedule and budget.

Harrington Learning Commons, Sorbarto Technology Center and Orradre Library, Santa Clara University, California, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, photo by Poon)
Harrington Learning Commons, Sorbarto Technology Center and Orradre Library, Santa Clara University, California, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, photo by Poon)

MUST
Process and product: both fascinate. The end of the journey is as exciting as the journey itself. We design both the outcome and the process that leads to the outcome.

NOT
Do not subscribe to the cliché, “Work hard, play hard.” Work can also be play. We do not divide our lives into boring work and fun play.

OUT LOUD
Enjoy your life. Laugh out loud. Arthur Rubenstein suggested that one should not practice piano too much: Limit your practice time, enjoy your life, and you will have much to express when playing piano.

Hands of Arthur Rubenstein (photo by Yousuf Karsh)
Hands of Arthur Rubenstein (photo by Yousuf Karsh)

PRACTICE
Don’t take yourself seriously, but take your work seriously.

QUIRKY
As in jazz, when a mistake is made, exploit it as a delightful thing. In classical music, when a wrong note is played, it gets buried under a flurry of other notes. In jazz, when an unintentional note is hit, the musician bangs on that note a few more times to make sure the audience hears it.

READY
Embrace improvisation and creating impromptu. Be prepared to make up things off the top of your head, from the tips of your fingers.

SLEEP
A fresh mind has the most creative potential. Don’t subscribe to the romanticized and fatalistic belief that sleepless nights bring about incredible imagination. And don’t believe that an artist needs to struggle, bleed, and die to be considered a genius.

Danae, by Gustav Klimt, 1907
Danae, by Gustav Klimt, 1907

TAKE
Take a lunch break every day. Give your brain a rest. Even if the day is hectic, take that break—not just to have it, but to decree that you are still in control of your day.

UNDO
If your work is boring you, do something different. If you are boring yourself, be someone else.

(photo from warosu.org)
(photo from warosu.org)

VICTIM
Try not to dress in all black. Don’t be a fashion cliché.

WRITTEN
Read everything: not just design magazines and blogs. Read poetry. Read the classics. Read autobiographies, non-fiction, comic books, music. Even read horoscopes and advice columns.

XANADU
Get used to senselessness and not knowing everything. The world is asking for too many answers. “One must imagine Sisyphus happy,” so said Albert Camus.

Sisyphus (photo from theonwardupwardjourney.com)
Sisyphus (photo from theonwardupwardjourney.com)

YOUTH
Like a young student, believe that you will save the world through your idealistic spirit. Hold tight your hopes, dreams, and ambitions.

ZENITH
Terms used to describe Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony: icon, masterpiece, seminal and absolute. The curse of The Ninth prevented superstitious composers from attempting to write a tenth symphony and surpass perfection. It goes so far as believing that the composer will die after writing his own Ninth. Gustav Mahler did. What would the world be if Beethoven had written a Tenth Symphony?

Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

 

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

THE CURIOUS THING ABOUT STYLE, PART 1 OF 2

December 31, 2015

For this food blogger’s residence in Pasadena, we juxtaposed the technology of parametric algorithms on to polyethylene, the material used to make household cutting boards.

Recently, I was asked by an interviewer, “What is your style?”

This question is often asked, and not just of architects, but creatives of all sorts: fashion, graphics, advertising, cuisine, etc. The media typically aims to capture one’s design philosophy in a sound bite digestible by mainstream readers.

Many interior decorators have a packaged response. I hear words like “eclectic,” “warm and welcoming,” “contemporary yet timeless.” I am not sure what kind of design results from this mash up of clichés.

Architects have a hard time speaking of their style. Hugh Hardy, one of my past employers, argued that once you answer the dreaded question, your critics will constantly be assessing your work to see if you have lived up to your declarations.

What is style after all?

With extensive education, a higher degree and a 250-page graduate school thesis, many architects simply can’t and won’t summarize their creative philosophy in 20 words or less. For some, “style” is a bad word, and it shouldn’t be an elevator pitch.

upper left: Federal National Council’s Parliament Building, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emiretes by Ehrlich Architects; upper right: McNamara Alumni Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, by Antoine Predock Architect Studio (photo by Bobak Ha’Eri); lower left: Dominus Estate, Yountville, California, by Herzog & de Meuron (photo by dominusestate.com); lower right: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, by Steven Holl Architects (photo by Andy Ryan)
upper left: Federal National Council’s Parliament Building, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emiretes by Ehrlich Architects; upper right: McNamara Alumni Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, by Antoine Predock Architect Studio (photo by Bobak Ha’Eri); lower left: Dominus Estate, Yountville, California, by Herzog & de Meuron (photo by dominusestate.com); lower right: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, by Steven Holl Architects (photo by Andy Ryan)

Some colleagues who talk about their architectural style do so with clever labels. Steven Ehrlich, based in Los Angeles, calls his work “Regional Modernism.” New Mexico architect Antoine Predock is a self-described “Cosmic Modernist.” Herzog & de Meuron of Switzerland has been coined, “Elemental Reductivists.” From New York, Steven Holl’s work involves “typology, phenomenology and existentialism.”

For architects such as Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando or Richard Meier, their style has been accused of being formulaic. Many would argue that all their buildings look the same. Is this so bad? Don’t all the Beatles’ songs and Beethoven Sonatas sound similar? (This topic of formula will be discussed in an upcoming blog.)

Oscar Peterson Trio (photo by Paul Hoeffler)
Oscar Peterson Trio (photo by Paul Hoeffler)

So now it is my turn to answer the universal question of style. My response should not be trite, but rather complex—but not pretentious.

I answered in two parts: Process and Product. My Process is inspired by jazz—the spontaneity and the improvisational spirit. (More another day.)

My Product, meaning the final structure, say a house or school, is driven by juxtaposition. I enjoy combining things together, either comfortably or awkwardly, to see what might arise: the modern and the traditional, the hand crafted and the machine made, the broad strokes and the finicky details, just to name a few.

Meditation Retreat House, Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia, by Poon Design
Meditation Retreat House, Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia, by Poon Design

For a Buddhist meditation retreat in Virginia, Poon Design created a guardrail that juxtaposed a galvanized off-the-shelf steel frame with natural twine made from hemp. Yes, you can smoke it.

Student Center, University of California, Riverside, by Anthony Poon while w/ HHPA (rendering by Gilbert Gorski)
Student Center, University of California, Riverside, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, watercolor by Gilbert Gorski)

For the University of California, our student center combined traditional campus brick and limestone, with sleek glass curtain wall and over-scaled weathering zinc shingles.

At Mendocino Farms, we blended a funky old school vibe, such as chalk board walls, vaudeville signage, clothespins, and industrial piping, with high-end luxury, such as Carrara marble, walnut planks, stainless steel trim, and custom furniture.

Mendocino Farms, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design
Mendocino Farms, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design

Juxtaposition is not just my artistic approach, but the interests in my life as well. I like Brahms and I also like American Idol. I like Rembrandt and Pop Art. I like omakase sushi with a Coke, as well as McDonald’s with sake. I wear Gucci with the Gap. Love Nan Goldin and commercial photography. I read biographies, but also comic books. I like watching ping pong and the Superbowl. Reality shows that follow CNN.

I like the diversity and the messiness. I like unexpected results.

THE ROAD TO FRANK GEHRY: WHAT HAPPENED AT LACMA?

November 5, 2015

Gehry’s vulcanized fiber wall, LACMA, Los Angeles, California (photo by Lily Poon)

When The Simpsons make fun of your work, you have arrived, right?

Many think of architecture as a final product, such as a building, a park or a piece of furniture. Many forget about the creative journey that arrives at the final product.

Process and product—in life as in design, getting there is as gratifying as being there.

I ask this of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art: why is the process that architect Frank Gehry is famously known for absent from your current exhibit?

left: Model of Gehry’s design for the Louis Vuitton Foundation, LACMA, Los Angeles, California (photo by Ella Poon); right: Louis Vuitton Foundation by Gehry, Paris, France (photo by Fondation Louis Vuitton)
left: Model of Gehry’s design for the Louis Vuitton Foundation, LACMA, Los Angeles, California (photo by Ella Poon); right: Louis Vuitton Foundation by Gehry, Paris, France (photo by Fondation Louis Vuitton)

Simply entitled “Frank Gehry,” LACMA delivers their latest blockbuster show. Now in his late 80’s, Gehry’s career has been showered with every accolade, i.e. AIA Gold Medal, Pritzker Prize, and the National Medal of Arts awarded by the U.S. President. So why did the museum capture five decades of Gehry’s work by displaying only two aspects: early sketches (the beginning) followed by a large physical model (the conclusion)?

Sure, there are other aspects in the show, like photographs and video clips. But where is the most fascinating aspect, Gehry’s artistic explorations? Well known for his ingenious studies—the process of drawing and drawing, building models of all sizes, variations and permutations, material and construction research, and innovative technological applications—these (samples below) are missing at LACMA.

left: Study models for the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain (photo by Hisao Suzuki); right: Sketches by Gehry for the Guggenheim Museum
left: Study models for the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain (photo by Hisao Suzuki); right: Sketches by Gehry for the Guggenheim Museum

Here’s what I think. Over the years, Gehry’s imaginative process has been unfortunately labeled by the mainstream as “crumpled paper.” When this architect designs, his studies do look like crumpled pieces of paper. Dozens of them. Hundreds of them.

Doomed, Gehry’s thoughtful research has been labeled not just formulaic, but cliché. Even my 10-year old daughter’s class studied his work, calling it crumpled wads of paper. As such, all the children giggle.

Clip from The Simpsons 2005 episode “The Seven-Beer Snitch”
Clip from The Simpsons 2005 episode “The Seven-Beer Snitch”

To reach the height of pop-culture zeitgeist, for better or for worse, a 2012 episode of The Simpsons parodied Gehry’s designs. Fictionally, Marge’s crumpled letters inspired one of Gehry’s most prominent buildings, the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Though Gehry cooperated with the TV show, he later stated how he is “haunted” by the Simpsons’ gag. Disappointed, Gehry confesses, “Clients come to me and say, crumple a piece of paper. We’ll give you $100, and then we’ll build it.”

I believe LACMA, or even Gehry himself, chose to counter the ill-fated wrinkled paper theme. But by doing so, perhaps too much has been edited out. The previous exhibit at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica curated a much more revealing and exciting show, presenting Gehry’s inner workings and the in-betweens.

Walt Disney Concert Hall by Gehry, Los Angeles, California (photo by Patrick Krabeepetcharat)
Walt Disney Concert Hall by Gehry, Los Angeles, California (photo by Patrick Krabeepetcharat)

Years back in Maui, I drove the legendary “Road to Hana.” When I arrived in Hana, I was dissatisfied by this small nondescript community. I then realized the point was not Hana itself, but rather, the road to Hana. I looked back at my delightful day—at how the 65-mile drive toured me through rain forests, waterfalls, beaches, bridges and the sunset.

In architecture and in life: think process and product. Enjoy the trek and smell the roses.

(Exhibit closes March 20, 2016, Frank Gehry, LACMA)

© Poon Design Inc.