Tag Archives: AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTS

DON’T BE AFRAID OF NEW IDEAS

July 20, 2018

1887 to 1889: Eiffel Tower under construction (photo from eiffeltowerguide.com)

When the Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889, it was criticized as the ugliest work of architecture and a horrific nightmare for Paris. Even prior to the completion of Gustave Eiffel’s iconic project—politicians, intellectuals, architects, and citizens banded together condemning the design.

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France (photo from yallabook.com)

Calling themselves the Artists against the Eiffel Tower, they proclaimed, “We . . . protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection … of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower … a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk . . . all of our humiliated monuments will disappear in this ghastly dream . . . like a blot of ink the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted sheet metal.”

These days, the beloved Eiffel Tower represents the pride of France, undisputed as one of the world’s most recognizable monuments, a marvel of engineering, and a landmark of architectural beauty.

Then a mere Yale undergraduate student, Maya Lin’s proposal was chosen from over 1,400 submissions. (photo from pdxmonthly.com)

One century later, the jury selected Maya Lin, only twenty-one years of age, as the winner of the design competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Lin’s design immediately sparked artistic debates and fueled controversy about her lack of talent, youth, ethnicity, and gender. Rather than the typical memorial of soldiers carved out of marble celebrating victory, Lin’s design was somber, morbid even. An ambitious concept of abstract art, the young designer envisioned a long wall of black granite cut into the ground—a wound in the earth expressing the thousands of lives lost in this war.

Despite many challenges and negativity, her design opened to the public with universal fanfare and tears of gratitude. Twenty-six years later, The American Institute of Architects placed Lin’s design on their list of “America’s Favorite Architecture.”

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C. (photo by Terry Adams/National Park Service)

Architects often deal with clients and the general public who might not embrace our creative visions. At least not at first. I am aware that not every design idea of mine is great. But I grumble here, because most people fear the newness of new ideas. The narrow-minded, the NIMBY’s, those who fear progress, and those with no ambition or imagination—all such members of this righteous audience stand ready to say no. They embrace a naive motto: if it looks different, it must not be good.

Basilica of Saint Denis, France (photo by Bruce Yuanyue Bi / Getty Images)
The Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China (photo by Songquan Deng / Shutterstock)

How do we explain to this kind of audience that we do know best? Regardless of an architect’s education and degrees, decades of apprenticeship and training, accolades and honors, media praise and client references, it doesn’t take much for a person to react to an architect’s presentation with, “No, nope, it’s not good.” Historically, this type of sentiment has been stated at the arrival of so many respected (later bestowed) works of architecture that has moved the needle of progress forward—from Gothic cathedrals to Chinese temples, from Frank Gehry’s masterpieces to heroic skyscrapers.

right: Flower Building, Prospect Place, London (rendering by Frank Gehry); left: 30 St. Mary Axe, London (photo by Creative Commons Attribution)

If you see a doctor and he says you have cancer, listen to the diagnosis and next steps. You are probably not smarter than your doctor. If you hire a lawyer, she probably has a better legal mind than you. Her experience has prepared her to be your best advocate. Pay attention.

Taegu Arena, Korea, by Anthony Poon (w/ NBBJ, photo by John Lodge)

If an architect proposes a new idea for a city park or a concert hall, an elementary school or a church—don’t have that knee jerk reaction, “I don’t get it. And I don’t like it.” Don’t be the establishment that proclaimed the Eiffel Tower as “monstrous, ghastly and hateful.” Keep an open mind to new ideas.

AWARDS, HONORS AND BRAGGING RIGHTS

June 29, 2018

(from starburstmagazine.com)

We are both blessed and lucky, as accolades shower the work of Poon Design Inc. With several dozen national awards, alongside local and regional ones, I am honored–especially with our recent win of one of the most prestigious awards in the industry: the National AIA Award.

Each and every project requires grueling work and commitment. For some projects, ten years have been exhausted to transform a design sketch into an award-winning reality.

Panorama Residence at Alta Verde Escena, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design and Andrew Adler (photo by Lance Gerber). Awarded the 2014 National Silver Award, Best Single Family Home, National Association of Home Builders, the 2013 National Gold Award, Detached Home Built for Sale, Best in American Living, National Association of Home Builders, and the 2013 Finalist, Mid-Century Re-Imagined, Dwell magazine.

From neighboring jurisdictions to countrywide juries, the prizes bestowed on my design team validate our creative pursuits. Sharing the honors with our clients validates their trust in us.

But here is the thing: every architect I know calls himself or herself an “award-winning architect.”

2009 International Design Competition Finalist: Contraband & Freedmen’s Cemetery and Memorial Park, Alexandria, Virginia, by Poon Design (rendering by Zemplinski)

And every company calls themselves an “award-winning firm” with “award-winning projects.” We all have awards. Some are prestigious, like the national award of excellence from The American Institute of Architects. Some are unimpressive, like a local chapter of an unheard entity. (We have some of those.) And some are ridiculous, like an in-house award from a third-rate corporate firm for an employee identified as “our company’s best improved designer.” With the last dubious honor from a company whose name is withheld, the flattered architect prances around the room as an “award-winning architect.”

One of the highest honor in architecture, the international Pritzker Prize (photo from themartian.eu)

Speaking of prestigious, only a few in our industry have taken home the monster award of them all, the annual Pritzker Prize. Commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture, this lifetime achievement award has been bestowed on only three dozen laureates around the globe—one per year. And only half a dozen are from the United States.

Jennifer Lawrence receives the Academy Award for Best Actress in Silver Linings Playbook, 2013 (photo from cnn.com)
Awarded the 2009 International Design Award for Best Restaurant from The American Institute of Architects, Chaya Downtown, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (photo by Gregg Segal)

Nobel Prize or a provincial award, my colleagues and I all try to be modest. We try to not let our artistic egos get out of control, and try to not believe our own hype. We feign humility like a Hollywood actor saying in a soft-spoken voice, “I am just honored to be nominated.” As each actor is up for that coveted Oscar statue, we hear that commonplace statement of decorum and a self-defense mechanism, if one ends up losing. I too have said the same cliché, before hearing my name called as a winner, and particularly after I have lost. “I am just honored to be here,” stated in a mock tone of diplomacy, as if losing is okay. It’s not.

Architects love their walls that display plaques, honors, and trophies. In my previous Beverly Hills office, I chose to not be so obvious. All our awards hung in the kitchen. If a client happened to glance a certain direction when seeking coffee, the crowded wall of our glory displayed our documented and supposed greatness.

One of my first awards: McDonald’s Honor Award for the Mayor McCheese Coloring Contest, 1973

Poon Design’s current studio in Culver City takes the predictable position of pandering. Upon walking in our front door, there they are. Hanging on the large brick wall, the shining awards greet you. A grand and insufferable, but necessary PR statement of bragging rights.

At the 2018 National Awards Ceremony in New York City, for The American Institute of Architects (photo by Poon Design)

Architecture is a challenging competitive field. As a daily struggle, it is not for the faint at heart. Whether a peer award or an honor from a distinguished jury of civic leaders, I say thank you to all those for making the field of architecture a lot more exciting.

Our most recent award, one of the highest honors in the country: the National AIA Award, Linea Residence G, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design and Andrew Adler (photo by James Butchart)

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.

EVERYTHING IS DESIGN

July 31, 2015

Poon Design business cards, by Danny Yee with Poon Design

Design is everywhere. Whether decorating a home, building a new city hall, master planning a park, or embarking on a high speed rail—design is at the epicenter.

Design is indeed everything, from cake decoration, the season’s latest fashions, make up and blow outs, websites and branding, planning a wedding, a hybrid engine, to the ergonomics of a toothbrush handle.

Design is the nexus of all this and more.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Colorado, by Anthony Poon (while w/ HHPA)
Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Colorado, by Anthony Poon (while w/ HHPA)

Staggering: estimated 75 million viewers per month of HGTV, 1 million subscribers of Architectural Digest, 1 million subscribers to Sunset, 300,000 readers of Dwell, $100 billion comprising the US construction industry, 100,000 members of The American Institute of Architects, and so on. And the numbers grow daily.

Print and online: Metropolis ,Communication Arts, Interior Design, House & Garden, Wallpaper, Elle Décor, Architecture, Architectural Record, A+U, Detail, Dezeen, The Architect’s Newspaper, arcspace, designboom, Architizer—just to name a few.

So many TV shows, books, websites, blogs, conventions, and media.

The design of a museum or a shoe store—the announcement often headlines the news. Architects as iconic figures in movies, DIY everywhere, prefab homes, style as content, going green—it is all part of a dramatic movement of design being universal. Everywhere.

Vosges Haut-Chocolat retail store, Beverly Hills, California, by Poon Design
Vosges Haut-Chocolat retail store, Beverly Hills, California, by Poon Design

In the past decades, stores have sprouted that made “design” approachable. Retail placed design on a mainstream platform and within the reach of consumers, with stores literally called Design Within Reach. The traditional Crate and Barrel offered a new hip and youthful company called CB2. Pottery Barn inserted their own design studios within their stores, led by in-house “designers.”

Each of these retailers sold design as a lifestyle, not just a commodity.

Even in the tabloids. Though it was a while ago, I can’t forget how Brad Pitt praised his own love for architecture. He also criticized how Jennifer Aniston, his then-wife, had no understanding of modern design. Jennifer countered with how Brad’s sense of design was cold, and that she preferred warm and cozy. (Was this about design or demeanor?)

With puzzling audacity, Brad then criticized architectural education, and somehow landed his dream job as an “architect” at the office of Starchitect Frank Gehry. Brad Pitt bellowed, “I’m really into architecture, structure and design. Give me anything and I’ll design it.”

Oscar-nominated actor Brad Pitt and Pritzker Prize architect Frank Gehry (photo source unknown)
Oscar-nominated actor Brad Pitt and Pritzker Prize architect Frank Gehry (photo source unknown)

I don’t know how and when design moved out of the privileged Renaissance world that commissioned Michelangelo and Palladio as architects. With great fury, design moved into everyday hands—from weekend warriors at Home Depot, to domestic goddesses wielding Martha Stewart paint swatches.

I welcome this movement that has delivered design to the general audience. With design topics at the forefront of conversations and with resources accessible to everyone, the world is a more thoughtful, delightful place.

© Poon Design Inc.