Tag Archives: CHRISTOPHER KAI

THE GIFTERS PODCAST, PART 2 OF 2: PROBLEM SOLVING, PRESENTATION, AND PUBLICATIONS

September 25, 2020

Steampunk-inspired sketch by Anthony Poon

Please enjoy more excerpts from Christopher Kai’s podcast series with me, The Gifters: Your Story is a Gift to the World. (episode 209). Excerpts from part one are here.

Christopher Kai: If you do not share your voice, your voice won’t be heard, and if your voice isn’t heard, you’re never really going to do what you say you want to do. What do you think architects know that other people might not, relative to the thinking process?

My sold out panel discussion on architecture and music at the Wende Museum with Culver City Mayor, Thomas Small, and architects, Stephen Ehrlich, Whitney Sanders, and Craig Webb from Gehry Partners. I performed Brahm’s Intermezzo in A, Opus 118, No. 2. (photo by Betsy Staes)

Anthony Poon: I think of two things. The first is architects are trained to be problem solvers. They’re trained to examine a broad number of topics all at one time, and look for solutions and options, prototype and test, and do a lot of what the business world is calling Design Thinking. It’s all a skill set that can apply to cooking a meal in your kitchen, to designing a library, to even raising children.

The other thing in architecture—as you talk about communication and presentation—is that though a lot of architects are talented, and though everyone has great ideas in their head, the key part is to be able to tell these stories, to present a narrative. You have to make a convincing presentation to the client, whether it is a husband and wife, board president of a museum, or decision makers at the university. You have to be able to communicate your ideas, and you have to do it convincingly. You have to tell them the why, how it’s important to them, and what the value is that they get out of your design ideas. If you don’t do this well, then you’re just a lonely poet sitting in your bedroom, jotting things down on a private piece of paper, but not getting your ideas out there.

Christopher: You get to create an idea, put it on paper, and then literally see it coming to fruition in an actual building. Tell us a little bit about your book because you’re also an author as well.

Sticks and Stones / Steel and Glass: One Architect’s Journey, by Anthony Poon (photo by Anthony Poon)

Anthony: I have two books published and one in the works. The book that came out three years ago is called Sticks and Stones / Steel and Glass: One Architect’s Journey. It’s a book that was inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. If you know that book, he reveals the behind-the-scenes stories of running restaurants and the food service industry. I took that model giving a behind-the-scenes look at the architecture world. My book is part autobiographical, part behind the scenes, part rants and raves, and part essays.

The second book is coming out next month on Amazon, called Live Learn Eat. It’s edited by the acclaimed author, Michael Webb, who spearheaded this project. It is a large format book on our architectural work at Poon Design Inc., and there are three chapters. Live presents our ideas about affordable and attainable housing. Learn is a chapter on our work in the education world—designing schools, K through 12 and preschools too. And the final chapter Eat, are our projects in hospitality, bars, restaurants. Together, it’s kind of a triple threat book.

Live Learn Eat: Architecture by Anthony Poon, edited by Michael Webb (photo by Anthony Poon)

Lastly, my third book, in the works, is a fictional book. I’m calling it an ‘architectural thriller’ in which several architects compete for a famous project in San Francisco: the conversion of Alcatraz Island into a new world museum. It’s a book of intrigue, a book of murder—talks about ego and arrogance, vanity and legacy, passion and desire. Architects start to mysteriously die off during the design competition. A John Grisham-type of thriller meets Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead.

The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand (photo by Anthony Poon)

Christopher: Anthony, thanks so much for being on The Gifters podcast. If you want to learn from a person that has such an eclectic and diverse palette of skillsets, definitely check out Anthony Poon.

THE GIFTERS PODCAST, PART 1 OF 2: ARTS, ARCHITECTURE, AND AUDIENCE

May 22, 2020

Jurupa K-8 School, Jurupa Unified School District, Riverside, California, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E)

I am pleased to be a guest on Christopher Kai’s podcast, The Gifters: Your Story is a Gift to the World (episode 209). As a global speaker, author, and executive coach, Mr. Kai speaks to Fortune 100 companies, from Google to New York Life, from American Express to Merrill Lynch. His podcast “shares inspiring stories from captivating entrepreneurs and extraordinary individuals who are changing the world.” Excerpts below.

Christopher Kai (photo from bookingworldspeakers.com)

Christopher Kai: Our guest today is Anthony Poon. He’s an architect and musician and author and an artist. Anthony, thanks so much for being here, where your story is a gift to the world. I’ve met a lot of people in my life, but I’ve never met a guy who’s a musician, author, artist, and architect. How do you have all these really cool interests? What started it all? How old were you when you had an inkling of some of your talents?

Anthony Poon: It started with music. In my mind, all of these four things are connected. My goal at an early age was to be a concert pianist. I trained and I practiced. As I got older, I started to think more practically about a career, and I’ve always enjoyed design and architecture.

There was a point of my life where I had to pick one path or the other. I was looking at two grad school applications, Juilliard for music vs. Harvard for architecture. I think the practicality of my Asian parents had me think, well, I better be an architect, because the odds are better for me to support myself, than being a classical pianist.

Me at St. Paul’s, Rancho Palos Verdes, California (photo by Grant Bozigian)

I chose architecture. The great thing is that running a design company and being an entrepreneur still gives me the freedom to play piano, to write music, to teach, and even perform a little. I don’t think it would have worked the other way around where I am a concert pianist and trying to operate an architecture office.

The overlap in all of it is that my work requires an audience, whether I’m playing music for myself, for a small group, or for a large venue. Architecture too requires an audience. It requires visitors and users. When I author a book, I’m counting on there being a reader. When I do my mixed-media art, it also requires an audience. They are all forms of communication for me to share stories with others.

Alleyway, 30” x 42”, March 10, 2019, by Anthony Poon

Christopher: That’s inspiring. My business is based in L.A., but right now I’m currently in Miami, and one of the most inspiring architects here is a woman named Zaha Hadid. For you, who inspires you as an architect, and what can we learn as entrepreneurs? Primarily our audience are entrepreneurs, but I’m all about how we can learn from different people and different professions. Who’s one architect that you admire, and what’s one thing that you feel that you’ve learned as an architect that you can perhaps share with our listeners?

Anthony: The architect that comes to mind is Peter Zumthor. He is a Swiss architect. He’s currently designing the new controversial Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I admire him because he has crafted his role as an artist within the profession of architecture. He stays focused on what his philosophy is, and chooses only a few special projects every couple of years to work on—and therefore giving the projects his most inspired ideas. So Peter Zumthor, for those who don’t know—his work is beautiful. It’s elemental, timeless, and shows a lot of ideas around minimalism, abstraction, and materiality.

Proposed Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California, by Peter Zumthor (rendering from LA Times)
Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine Concept, University of California San Diego, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, rendering by Douglas Jamieson)

Christopher: Do you feel some of your work is similar to that in terms of minimalistic and quality? What are some things that you’ve gleaned from him in your own practice as an architect?

Anthony: Our practice is a different. I think Zumthor can do what he does because he works in a small village in Switzerland. We work in the very vibrant communities of Southern California. Every project we take on is unique, and our project types are diverse. We do residential, commercial, retail, and restaurants. We also do schools and religious projects. Quite a broad mix. We think of all of our projects as telling a story, the story of the client, the client’s successes, maybe battle scars even, their vision for the company, or for an educational institution. This way our projects are full of content, material, and texture. Some make reference to history, some reference maybe a client’s most favorite piece of music or favorite poem. Our portfolio and the output is quite diverse, but intentionally so. (Stay tuned for part 2.)

© Poon Design Inc.