Tag Archives: DWELL

#56: IS TV FOR REAL? PART 2

February 17, 2017

Potential clients have come to my office asking for three free designs from which to pick—“the way we saw it on HGTV.” My anger aside from how reality TV twists reality, the client’s request compromises the integrity of the architectural process. (This article is a follow up to my past one, Is TV for Real?)

My client meeting with a Buddhist Foundation, Virginia, for a new dining hall (photo by Bryan Bethem)
My client meeting with a Buddhist Foundation, Virginia, for a new dining hall (photo by Bryan Bethem)

When I design for a client, I don’t draw three random schemes in a vacuum. I listen to the client first—their goals and dreams. When I show preliminary concepts, the client provides feedback on what they like and what they don’t. Through this back-and-forth process, a design develops, and is then refined. Not ever in a vacuum, the creative process is an exciting and thoughtful journey.

Okay, time for me to confess. Here and there, I have learned a few things from TV about color coordinating, selecting furniture, and being creative on a budget. I confess!

Also, the reality TV DIY shows have brought design to the forefront, that a well-crafted, nicely-styled life is desirable and achievable. In 15-minute bite size servings, these shows have delivered architecture to the mainstream.

Architect Howard Roark’s client presentation from The Fountainhead, 1949
Architect Howard Roark’s client presentation from The Fountainhead, 1949

In some distant past, clients were under the impression that design was a mysterious, closed-loop process. Now, many are conscious of how accessible good design advice is, whether from an award-winning architect or, yes, a charismatic TV personality.

I enjoy meeting with clients who already understand the concepts of an open floor plan, for example. Good or bad, these clients come prepared with Pinterest pages on style. Thank you reality TV. The clients and I can hit the ground running, proceeding with a shared foundation. Knowledge is power, after all, even in choosing paint colors.

Love-It-Web

Once was a cocktail debate between architects: “Who is the most influential voice in our industry?”

The usual suspects were tossed out as conversational sacrificial lambs. Local big names like Steven Ehrlich and Eric Owen Moss. Pritzker Prize winners like Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry. A safe go-to is naming the senior leaders like I.M. Pei and Renzo Piano.

National Centre for The Exhibition of Contemporary Art and Architecture, Rome, Italy, by Zaha Hadid (photo from fundazionemaxxi.it)
National Centre for The Exhibition of Contemporary Art and Architecture, Rome, Italy, by Zaha Hadid (photo from fundazionemaxxi.it)

Another angle is to suggest famous architects no longer living, but believed to be still influential today, i.e., Frank Lloyd Wright or Le Corbusier. Pretentiously, you can also try the obscure, though no less significant, such as Wang Shu, Sverre Fehn or Paulo Mendes de Rocha.

Ningbo Museum, China, by Wang Shu (photo by Iwan Baan)
Ningbo Museum, China, by Wang Shu (photo by Iwan Baan)

My contribution that night stopped the discussion. I proclaimed, “Martha Stewart!”

At the time, Martha Stewart utilized avenues of outreach in all forms, and was better known than any other designer in the country, maybe even in the world. If she stated with a quiet breath that “pink is to be used at table settings this season,” you could count on millions of dining tables across America set with something pink.

Stewart-2-Web

Let the debates and cynicism rage on. It’s all for the good. Martha, HGTV, Sunset, Houzz, Dwell, Wayfair, the plethora of magazines and blogs, etc.—all of it deserves gratitude from architects everywhere. To the widest audience, these mainstream entities deliver the concept of wanting good design. And for that, I say thank you.

Covers-Web

#14: 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.