Tag Archives: CONTENT

THE ARCH PODCAST, FORM MAGAZINE, 1 OF 3: STORYTELLING THROUGH ART

October 4, 2019

Skull Painting, 44” x 52”, by Anthony Poon (2018)

Carol Bishop: Hi, this is Carol Bishop with Form: Pioneering Design. Thank you for joining The Arch, connecting and supporting the arts and design community. Today, we are fortunate to have Anthony Poon of Poon Design Inc. Poon Design is a multi-disciplinary studio in architecture, interiors, and place making. In addition, Anthony is a noted artist, musician, and author. To begin, I’d like to welcome you, Anthony, and ask you to give us an introduction.

Recording session for The Arch Podcast with Carol Bishop (photo by The Arch)

Anthony Poon: Thank you and good morning, Carol. I’m excited to be here. My professional focus is Poon Design Inc. We are an architecture company in Los Angeles, and we focus on a diversity of projects from residential to commercial, from mixed-use to sacred projects, educational projects as well as hospitality, restaurants and retail. I would say that’s my job. It’s what I do when I go to work. But my passion is actually any form of creative expression, whether it is architecture, music, writing, or painting.

The annual tuning of my 1957 Lindeman spinet piano (photo by Anthony Poon)

Carol: Well, let’s take that a little bit further because I’d like to know what led you to become an architect, musician, artist, writer, and how you balance these and what the connections are between them.

Anthony: It’s all about creative expression. It’s about communication. It’s about having ideas about the world, about culture, about society, and finding ways in which I can express that, that I can communicate that to an audience. It could be through the design of a library, it could be through the design of a park, it could be through performing music or composing. It could be through writing an essay, or painting a painting, or making a sculpture. In all forms of these artistic expressions, they’re all communicating something that I want to say.

Carol: Let’s take that as a starting point. Often, when you’re doing music or art, it’s a solitary experience. You’re honing your skills, you’re problem-solving what media to use. How do you marry idea and communication with that part of the structures of working in the arts?

Anthony: I would disagree that it is a solitary exercise. In every form of artistic experimentation, there is an audience. If I’m designing a building, if it’s a house, the audience or the client, is a family. If I’m designing a performing arts center, theater, or a concert hall, the audience would be the people that come to visit—to hear an event. If I am playing a piece of music, it could be for an audience of one, it could be for some friends or family, or it could be for hundreds of people at a recital. When I paint, when I do some mixed-media explorations, I’m thinking that this is not a piece just for me, that this is a piece to share with the world that could end up in someone’s living room. Even though I may be at my piano by myself, or at my studio with a canvas by myself, or with my sketchbook sitting at the gas station, the circumstances may be that I am in a solo mode, but the goal is to share something with a larger audience.

The audience (photo from business2community.com)

Carol: When you say that your designs have ideas, are you talking about stories or narratives? How do you integrate that into your work?

Anthony: Design is storytelling. What we do when we start a project is to learn as much as we can about the client, whether the client is a family or a corporation. It could be a restaurant or a hotel. We want to hear their stories. We want to hear their ambitions, their agendas, their success stories as well as maybe some battle scars. We want to know what they dream of and what they envision for their future.

If it’s a house, someone might tell us about some Thanksgiving dinner they envision throwing in a wonderful dining room—or a child sitting at a bay window reading a book and the way the sun comes through the leaves on the nearby tree. If it’s a restaurant, the client might tell us a story about the cuisine, how they approach getting their ingredients and how they prepare their meals. If it’s a school, there’s definitely an educational manifesto, what the curriculum is and what the methodology is for teaching.

We listen to all of this, and it becomes the story. It becomes what we call content. It is such pieces of information, facts, and stories that become the basis for how we design a building.

Live Learn Eat: Architecture by Anthony Poon, a soon-to-be-published book by ORO Publishers, edited by Michael Webb, available early 2020

Carol: I know your second book (first one here ) is coming out called, Live Learn Eat: Architecture by Anthony Poon, and so I’m very interested in it. Can you tell me something about it?

Anthony: This book is coming out hopefully the end of the year. It’s being published by ORO Publishers, a very prestigious international publishing group. This book is spearheaded by Michael Webb, the well-known architectural writer and critic. We’re honored that he has decided to lead this project. Michael came up with this incredible theme for us, Live, Learn, Eat—to suggest that this book covers three different categories of our work. “Live” obviously means our residential work, and that’s both custom design as well as tract housing. “Learn” is our educational work, our schools. “Eat” would be our bars and restaurants. As far as we know, we don’t think a book like this exists. There are plenty of books on architects designing homes. That’s the majority of books you’ll find at Barnes & Noble. There are many architects who specialize in restaurants, and there are the K-12 / higher education big firms that specialize in such.

Our monograph is a unique triple-threat book that shows how we operate at all scales and for many different kinds of clients. It makes me think with our increasing body of work and interest in many different project types, this theme can become an ongoing series of books about us over the years. We can do a book called something like, Play Work Pray, for example. “Play” could be our recreational projects. “Work” is our office buildings, and “Pray” would be our religious projects. And so on.

Linea Residence V, by Poon Design, Palm Springs (photo by David Blank)

Carol: In the end, do you have a manifesto?

Anthony: I don’t have a manifesto. I think there are daily goals and there are things that I want to achieve. But I think back to one of my employers, the late Hugh Hardy. He had always said that mission statements and manifestos are dangerous things, because once you put it out there, people will accuse you of not supporting your own mission statement or accuse you of being in contradiction to what you’ve set out to do.

A manifesto is quite ambitious. I could also be accused of being naïve to think that I could write a manifesto, whether it’s a paragraph or 100 pages. I think I prefer the jazz-like approach in which I get up each morning and wonder what the day will bring, and approach it more organically—and see how I can just come up with ideas for whatever I’m to confront each and every day of my life.

(The full podcast is here.)

 

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.

© Poon Design Inc.