Tag Archives: 8 FISH

LIFE AND DEATH OF ARCHITECTURE

June 10, 2016

2016 demolition of the Netherlands Dance Theater, The Hague, by Rem Koolhaas, OMA (photo by kojiri.jp)

One of my favorite projects was recently demolished. From the team at Poon Design, our Vosges Haut-Chocolat in Beverly Hills is no more.

A month later, another work of ours demolished: Saffron, an Indian restaurant. Years ago, 8 Fish, our design for a sushi joint also met the demise of a bulldozer.

Of two hundred completed projects by Poon Design, only these three have confronted this fate of a demolition crew. That these deaths are retail and restaurants, and knowing how often such businesses fail, I do not fret over the casualties within my portfolio. I am however amazed by my reactions: bereavement, relief and optimism.

Vosges Haut-Chocolat flagship retail, café and “Chocolate Theater,” Beverly Hills, California, by Poon Design, demolished 2016
Vosges Haut-Chocolat flagship retail, café and “Chocolate Theater,” Beverly Hills, California, by Poon Design, demolished 2016

At a collection of industrial buildings in the modish Arts District of downtown Los Angeles, our client The Container Yard invites street artists to paint—world celebrated alongside up-and-comers. With hundreds of building walls, inside and out, offering blank canvases 50 feet wide, each painter is granted autonomy to create. At this shared community, no desperate grab for territory or pronouncements of ego exist.

Giant murals at The Container Yard (photo by Anthony Poon)
Giant murals at The Container Yard (photo by Anthony Poon)

Inevitably, a mural by one artist is painted over by another artist, without hesitation or dispute. A magnificent work of brush and spray paint techniques, weeks or months in the making, may present itself for only a few days before a new artist wipes out the preceding work.

8 Fish sushi restaurant, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design, demolished 2011
8 Fish sushi restaurant, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design, demolished 2011

Other than temporary structures like an expo pavilion, a pop-up store, or a stage set, architects don’t typically design with casual ambitions and in a transitory setting like The Container Yard. When architects create, we expect our work to stand tall for decades. My ego hopes that not only will my work be accepted, but fingers crossed, also embraced for a generations.

When a project of mine must be torn down to be superseded by another architect’s vision, rejection and relief arise. In some acclaimed projects such as with Vosges, the demolition delivers disappointment that my work did not endure longer for more visitors to enjoy. But for 8 Fish, a less satisfying work of mine, I was ready to make way for another architect with better ideas.

One of my favorite architects and my professor, Rem Koolhaas, confronts his own emotions of defeat regarding the recent death of his first major project, the much praised Netherlands Dance Theater completed in 1987. Koolhaas confesses shock that one of his most significant designs was demolished with little fanfare or concern, “That element of surprise has in a way preempted a feeling of tragedy or loss.”

Netherlands Dance Theater, The Hague, by Rem Koolhaas, OMA (photo from pritzkerprize.com)
Netherlands Dance Theater, The Hague, by Rem Koolhaas, OMA (photo from pritzkerprize.com)

My position on the eradication of my hard work is that the soul of civilization is “progressive.” As the Emerson quote asserts, “. . . it never quite repeats itself, but in every act attempts the production of a new and fairer whole.”

Though I wish that my creative work can remain permanently for people to experience forever, I accept that what I contribute to the built environment, whether a house, school or church, is but one small artifact in the immense arc known as Progress. And such are the Best Demo’d Plans of Mice and Men.

Painstaking hand carved plaster work by artisans in Marrekesh, Morocco, for Vosges Haut-Chocolat, Beverly Hills, California, by Poon Design, demolished 2016
Painstaking hand carved plaster work by artisans in Marrekesh, Morocco, for Vosges Haut-Chocolat, Beverly Hills, California, by Poon Design, demolished 2016

MY EARS ARE RINGING

February 19, 2016

Blue Cow Kitchen & Bar, Los Angeles, California, by Mass, renovated by Poon Design (photo by Alen Lin)

Okay, I won’t name names, but the guilty comprise many restaurants in Los Angeles and other cities. At these establishments, yes, I enjoy the food, the service and the architecture. But why can’t I hear my friends who sit across from me? Why is the noise level actually painful—my ears ringing from the haranguing clamor, and my throat sore from yelling mere table conversation?

I came across the post, How to Choose A Restaurant When You have Heraing Loss, from leading hearing health advocate Shari Eberts, on her blog, Living With Hearing Loss. In her post, she describes the challenges that those with hearing loss can have when dining out and provides suggestions for how to best navigate a restaurant environment.

While I complain about poorly designed acoustic environments, I can only imagine the overwhelming negative impact on restaurant customers with any degree of hearing loss.

Acoustical panels made from compressed recycled wood fibers painted red by Tectum, with cork wall panels, Saffron, Beverly Hills, California, by Poon Design
Acoustical panels made from compressed recycled wood fibers painted red by Tectum, with cork wall panels, Saffron, Beverly Hills, California, by Poon Design

The irresponsibility is embarrassing. Most restaurateurs, architects and interior designers/decorators seem to be okay focusing only on the visual and ignoring the aural. Meaning, focusing only on what you see and ignoring how you hear. Listen, it is as if a lazy chef separated your taste buds from yours eyes, suggesting that your entrée doesn’t have to taste good, as long as it is looks good.

Recent interests in tuning up the restaurant experience to address the adverse effects of sound, vibration and reverberation are admirable. Though it is questionable to view the topic as a “new design trend.” Would we call safety a new design trend in automotive design?

To create a comprehensive design, don’t just select stylish furniture, nice art and an agreeable palette of paint colors. The notes below are only a start, but should guide everyone from chefs to managers to designers in achieving quality aural architecture.

ONE

Parallel surfaces can bounce the clatter of noise everywhere, even increasing it at times. A few degrees of shift or angle to any surface dissipate the echo. This can be done ambitiously with walls or easily with the placement of a wine display case or host stand.

Angled porcelain tile dividers at 8 Fish, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design
Angled porcelain tile dividers at 8 Fish, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design

TWO

Adding soft surfaces like upholstered furniture and wall coverings are givens. Think about attaching sound absorbing fabric to the underside of dining tables. As sound bounces from the floor up towards customers’ ears, the fabric reduces the impact. Absorbing material and industry acoustic panels can be hidden in dozens of places. You don’t have to install an acoustic tile ceiling, which makes your restaurant look like a corporate office.

Acoustic insulation laid out of sight, on top of the lid over the bar (left side) at Memphis Café, Manhattan Beach, California, by Poon Design (photo by Within A Dream)
Acoustic insulation laid out of sight, on top of the lid over the bar (left side) at Memphis Café, Manhattan Beach, California, by Poon Design (photo by Within A Dream)

THREE

I like “transparent ceilings.” Besides delivering the impression of a taller space, this approach produces one of the best acoustic solutions. As noise travels up, it is trapped by acoustic insulation.  Another ceiling idea: varying heights prevent lingering echo, which also offers a diversity of scale.

left: Hickory slat ceiling at Sushi Noguchi, Yorba Linda, California; right: A lowered ceiling at Deluca’s Italian Deli, The Americana at Brand, Glendale, both by Poon Design
left: Hickory slat ceiling at Sushi Noguchi, Yorba Linda, California; right: A lowered ceiling at Deluca’s Italian Deli, The Americana at Brand, Glendale, both by Poon Design

FOUR

Ms. Eberts is correct about “Sound Absorbing Décor.” Almost anything can be engineered to diffuse sound travel, such as large painted canvases, ceiling sculpture, metal screens, wood lattices, or even light fixtures. Or, surprise a visitor with artificial grass used on a vertical surface, or a tree on the inside.

top left: Water jet cut, weathered steel screens in an interpretive Chinese pattern at Joss Cuisine, Beverly Hills, California; top right: Moveable white oak screens at Din Tai Fung, The Americana at Brand, Glendale (photo by Gregg Segal); bottom left: Mendocino Farms, Marina del Rey (winner of 2011 International Design Award for Best Restaurant from The American Institute of Architects) and West Hollywood, California, all by Poon Design
top left: Water jet cut, weathered steel screens in an interpretive Chinese pattern at Joss Cuisine, Beverly Hills, California; top right: Moveable white oak screens at Din Tai Fung, The Americana at Brand, Glendale (photo by Gregg Segal); bottom left: Mendocino Farms, Marina del Rey (winner of 2011 International Design Award for Best Restaurant from The American Institute of Architects) and West Hollywood, California, all by Poon Design

FIVE

Restaurants are embracing modern design, but that doesn’t have to mean hard cold surfaces. Balance a concrete floor with walnut planks and brass mesh. Sleek surfaces are easy to keep clean, but juxtapose that polished stone countertop with a leather elbow rest.

Dividers at Chaya Downtown, Los Angeles, CA, by Poon Design, winner of 2009 International Design Award for Best Restaurant from The American Institute of Architects (photo by Gregg Segal)
Dividers at Chaya Downtown, Los Angeles, CA, by Poon Design, winner of 2009 International Design Award for Best Restaurant from The American Institute of Architects (photo by Gregg Segal)

Keep the high ceilings, but bring the intimate scale and noise level down with funky chandeliers.

Top: Each chandelier is made of wire fencing and 1,500 wood clothespins at Mendocino Farms, Los Angeles, California; bottom: Laser cut Walnut plywood lamp shades, Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, California (photo by Gregg Segal) both projects by Poon Design
Top: Each chandelier is made of wire fencing and 1,500 wood clothespins at Mendocino Farms, Los Angeles, California; bottom: Laser cut Walnut plywood lamp shades, Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, California (photo by Gregg Segal) both projects by Poon Design

CONCLUSION

Include acoustic ideas as part of every design discussion, not as an afterthought or something trivial. Think of your restaurant as an instrument. It needs to be tuned.

© Poon Design Inc.