Tag Archives: EC KIDS

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.)

SHIFTING GROUNDS IN ARCHITECTURE

May 1, 2020

Fires at the 405 freeway, near where I previously resided. (photo from abcnews.go.com)

(Original feature editorial published in California Homes: The Essential Guide, Architects & Builders 2020)

As earthquakes and fires challenge our complacency, as a decade concludes, the design industry confronts transitions and shifting grounds. No, not trends in popular paint colors. And not faux-Cape-Cod homes on the west side. Architecture is one of the few remaining noble fields where those who choose to participate do so because architecture has the capacity to change the world.

Yet another trendy faux-Cape-Cod inspired home—an architectural style that has little relevance to our Southern California context and climate. (photo from Pinterest)
Poon Design is honored to be one of the few green architecture businesses, acknowledged as a Certified Innovator, Sustainable Business Certification Program.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESILIENCE

Sustainability is not a fad, no longer just a movement. It is mission critical. Being green does not simply comprise solar panels on the roof with recycled materials in the kitchen. Being an advocate for the environment has evolved into a lifelong commitment to our global community.

Last year as Poon Design Inc. received its certification as a sustainable business from the California Green Business Network, our pledge went beyond saving on paper and electricity. Our calling involves educating clients, participating in community service, and thinking beyond the physical environment, to include our economic and social circumstances.

Add the recent interests in biophilia and the instinctive association to nature and all forms of life. More crucial is what is known today as resilient design. How does architecture recover from disaster, whether fire or flood—even terrorism or a school shooting?

EC Kids fitness center and ninja gym, Culver City, by Poon Design (sketch by Anthony Poon)

TECHNOLOGY AND PROCESS

I embrace the old school tools of my trade that include a pencil, triangle and drafting table. A quantum leap for design arrived with digital technology. Computers and algorithms are not just powerful tools for the creative process, but also for construction. But I argue that our clients have been saturated with this promising call of a technological future.

For the design process, hands-on, rolling-up-one’s-sleeves, real-time methods replace clicks of the mouse. Expressive hand drawings far outshine the heavily-Photoshopped computer rendering. A 3D-rendering captures what the house might look like. But a hand-drawn sketch captures the emotion. When in construction, Poon Design challenges the machine-made and the factory-produced output. We embrace the hand-crafted that expresses the human touch.

Buddhist Temple, The 14th Shamarpa Reliquary Building, Natural Bridge, Virginia. One of four completed buildings by Poon Design for a 400-acre international Buddhist retreat. Universally sacred, this design expresses a crafted and quiet architecture of both human and spiritual hands. (Photo by Mark Ballogg)

BLURRING THE LINES

Where advantageous, architects became design-builders. Where necessary, lines between architects and interiors designers became fuzzy. Where strategic, architects designed furniture and interior designers designed bedding and kitchenware. Though the business model of single-minded specialization is an expedient method to market one’s brand, such as being the expert of Spanish Colonial estates in Beverly Hills, the current industry reveres the design companies of greater depth and complexity. As Frank Lloyd Wright promoted decades ago, ambitious design studios offer an array of services under one roof, from architecture to interiors, from furniture to graphics, from landscape to product design. With the right client, Poon Design adds branding, fashion, art/music curation, and certified feng shui services.

Living room of an estate in Beverly Hills, California, architecture by Martin/Poon Architects, interiors by Timothy Corrigan. (Photo by Anthony Poon)

For each designer focusing exclusively on luxury single-family residences, there are architects embracing tract homes, prefabricated ADUs, affordable housing, and co-living mixed-use projects. Why can’t the architect of homes design a Buddhist temple?

Linea Residence G, Palm Springs, California. This production house design and similar others by designer/developer, Andrew Adler, and Poon Design have been built and sold, totaling 230 completed projects in and around Palm Springs. 2018 Winner of Best in Housing Design for North America, The American Institute of Architects. (Photo by Hunter Kerhart)

CONSTANT CHANGE

Practically a cliché these days, Heraclitus proclaimed, “The only constant in life is change.” The truism still applies.

I don’t have a crystal ball, nor do my fellow classmates. But we are somewhat Futurists and we encounter the patterns. 1) The significance of community outweighs the consequence of self. 2) Face-to-face, hands-on interaction prevails over phone texts and posting on Instagram. 3) There are no limits to what a designer can design, what a creative mind can create.

Conference room wall at Poon Design, Los Angeles, California (photo by Anthony Poon)
© Poon Design Inc.