Tag Archives: art

GLENSTONE: A CONVERSATION BETWEEN ART, LANDSCAPE AND ARCHITECTURE

September 13, 2019

Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland (photo from thomasphifer.com)

To call Glenstone a mere museum is to misrepresent the power of how a visitor can experience art. The museum’s website posits, “Glenstone is a place that seamlessly integrates art, architecture, and landscape into a serene and contemplative environment.” And boy, it’s successful.

Glenstone blurs the lines between the three mediums. Know this: “Art” is not just a simple framed painting hanging on a gallery wall. At Glenstone, art is a relationship between several forces experienced as an enchanted journey through time and space.

The “Pavilions” forming the “Water Court” (photo by Anthony Poon)

For my soon to be published second book, I scribed, “Do I like playing a Beethoven piano sonata more than writing a position article on the design industry? Do I enjoy working on a large mixed-media art piece more than designing a Buddhist temple? I don’t see any such exercises as separate, or in any way, independent from each other. Artistic endeavors are not discrete. All my investigations, experiments, tests and failures fall under the shelter of a single umbrella, a simultaneous effort—that of a creative voyage with no starting point and excitingly, no end in sight . . . Music, painting, writing, architecture, and so on. For me, it is all one artistic gesture—interconnected, intertwined, inseparable.”

Compression Line, by Michael Heizer,1968/2016 (photo by Anthony Poon)

Over the years, Glenstone’s founders, Emily and Mitchell Rales, billionaire business leader and philanthropist, amassed an incredible private art collection of approximately 1,300 works from the 20th and 21st century: Twombly, Kelly, Heizer, Basquiat, Rothko, Koons, Serra, just to name a few—the Usual (but incredible) Suspects. In Potomac, Maryland, Glenstone opened in 2006 with safe and somewhat predictable Modern buildings by New York architect, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates. The museum’s name is a mash-up of the nearby Glen Road and the indigenous Carderock stone.

Design drawing by Thomas Phifer and Partners

In late 2018, the museum entered the transcendental world stage with architect Thomas Phifer and Partners’ powerful composition of the “Pavilions” and “Water Court,” with landscape collaboratively designed by Peter Walker of Berkeley, California. Glenstone’s 230 acres transformed into a state of mind that balances art, sculpture, installations, design, nature, water, light and all good things. Glenstone challenges one of my favorite places on Earth, the 500-acre Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, New York.

The Therme Vals by Peter Zumthor, Braubunden, Switzerland Zumthor (photo from vals.ch)

Akin to the Minimalism of architect Peter Zumthor’s  Therme Vals Spa in Switzerland, Glenstone is dramatic and theatrical, despite its mute Pavilions. A dozen of them, each a single art experience, center around a sunken water garden. Who knew that saying nothing and being silent can say so much?  Here, an engaging and direct conversation occurs when a massive vertical wall of Cardderock stone meets the peaceful horizontal surface of reflecting water, while above is the infinity of a blue sky. Nothing more, nothing less, and yet, so much more.

Massive and poetic vertical surfaces of Carderrock stone-clad “Pavilions” (photo by Anthony Poon)

Even the museum staff are Minimalistic. Accompanying their drab grey cotton garb with pants cropped at the ankles, they each have a small name tag of slim horizontal chrome stainless steel. But the name tags remain blank!

The approach through broad landscape, the “Pavilions” in the distance like an enigmatic modern day Stonehenge (photo from glenstone.org)
Buried in nature, one comes upon the mystery Clay Houses (Boulder-Room-Holes), by Andy Goldsworthy 2007 (photo by Anthony Poon)

The overall result of Glenstone is a must-see, near-religious experience of Modern art, elemental architecture and the pastoral outdoors. Make a reservation; the museum only lets in a limited number of people per day.  And sorry, no photography allowed within the galleries.

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)

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

 

ARCHITECTURE IS

April 18, 2015

Tools from Anthony Poon’s art studio

Architecture is not a painting because it is three-dimensional. Architecture is not sculpture, because it is more than an object that you engage by walking around, at an imaginary perimeter. Akin to installation and experiential art if it was permanent, architecture is a space and a place that one moves through in time—maybe once, maybe over and over again.

Architecture is a journey and a work of art that exists to attract and serve. Architecture has beauty, has form, and has function.

University Library, American University in Cairo, New Cairo, Egypt, by Anthony Poon (while w/ HHPA)
University Library, American University in Cairo, New Cairo, Egypt, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA)

In its making, architecture can be created slowly and methodically like a surgeon working on a painstakingly complex procedure. Architecture can be created strategically, like a general preparing for a battle. Or architecture can be created impromptu and improvisationally like a jazz musician sitting down as his keyboard playing a tune of which he has no idea where it began and where it will go.

Architecture is about persistence, courage, optimism, and passion, and perhaps, a bit of insanity. What other field is the intersection of art, science, business, and even human survival? What other field provides emotional, spiritual and intellectual responses, as well as put a roof over our heads?

W-V Mixed Use Project, Manhattan Beach, by Poon Design, photo by Gregg Segal
W-V Mixed Use Project, Manhattan Beach, by Poon Design (photo by Gregg Segal)

We need places to live, and we want these places to be warm and welcoming. We need places to go to work, and we want these places to be comfortable and efficient. We need schools, and we want these places to be inspiring and safe. Our neighborhoods need places to gather and socialize, and we want these places to be democratic and energized. Our communities need churches to worship in, and we want these places to be aspirational and uplifting. Our businesses need places to thrive and grow, and we want these places to be strategic and informed. Our rulers need places to create and debate policies, and we want these places to be powerful and influential.

Architecture is all that. And more.

© Poon Design Inc.