Tag Archives: Escena

#170: STROKES OF GENIUS?

May 26, 2023

Dancing House, also called “Ginger and Fred (after the dancers Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire), Prague, Czechia, by Frank Gehry (sketch from ted.com, photo from prague.eu)

There is a fascination with how an architect, in a single first sketch, can capture the entire concept of a proposed project. Is such a sketch evidence of inspired genius blasted onto paper within seconds vs. a mere doodle of no concern vs. smoke-n-mirrors and good salesmanship?

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, by Tadao Ando (sketch from archdaily.com)
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (photo from archdaily.com)

A romantic belief exists that the brilliance of the creator and the entire DNA of a new building can be displayed in a few strokes of artistry. Such a poetic sketch, a simple scribble even, on the back of a cocktail napkin supposedly represents the entire design philosophy of a design to come—a guidebook for the design team and a request for client affirmation.

Collage of sketches by Anthony Poon

This obsession and even prominence of sketching a concept on a napkin has reached such fanatical heights that ArchDaily features, “Napkin Sketches by Famous Architects,” Architectural Record has their annual, “Cocktail Napkin Sketch Contest,” Architizer invites architects to the “One Drawing Challenge,” and the American Institute of Architects conducts the “AIA Napkin Sketch Auction.”

Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, by Steven Holl (sketch from cladglobal.com, photo from stevenholl.com)

But is it realistic to think that the author’s elemental drawing, as profound and seductive as it might be, can fuel the entire design journey from pen and paper to brick and mortar? Frank Lloyd Wright was rumored to have preconceived in his head the entire design of one of his famed houses. Within a brief moment of time, he could draft the whole thing in front of his attentive audience of apprentices. Architects like Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando, and Steven Holl draw, doodle and sketch (watercolor In Holl’s case) using the scribbling process to find an idea.

In the end, an inspiring concept is indeed captured, and such a sketch becomes the apparent roadmap for the architectural team to develop, and in some cases, to struggle with and reproduce in three-dimensions. In this latter case, is the sketch less a source of inspiration and more a pair of handcuffs? What pains the employees must confront as they try to second guess the boss’ design intentions, as they try to decipher what may be nothing more than a whimsical drawing, as they try to extract answers from an enigmatic gesture.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Kansas, by Steven Holl (sketch from cladglobal.com)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (photo by Roland Halbe)

Returning to salesmanship, one architect (not to be named) knew of his prowess with drawing brilliant sketches—sepia fountain pen on yellow translucent paper. He was also aware of how his clients would value such sketches of their projects as art, as fine originals from the artist/architect. But here are the smoke-n-mirrors.

  1. This architect does not actually create that first sketch in the beginning. Instead, he waits until after the building is completed years later.
  2. He then takes a photo of the finished project and traces over said photo imitating (cheating actually) the look and feel of an inspirational conceptual sketch.
  3. Then he predates the sketch back by many years to suggest (deceive actually) that this drawing was the first sketch of his genius process ar the beginning.
  4. The salesmanship continues with the sketch being framed accompnaied by a blatant lie by the architect, “I never give away any of my original sketches, but this time, I will—just for you.” Of course, these fake sketches are given away all the time.

Hence the hocus pocus.

Escena Residence I-3, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (w/ Andrew Adler, sketch by Anthony Poon)
Escena Residence I-3 (photo by Chris Miller)

#97: PODCAST PART 2: MODERN FOR THE MASSES, REVISITED

March 8, 2019

Escena Residence I-3, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Chris Miller)

Continuing with my interview for Josh Cooperman’s podcast, Convo By Design, we discussed how affordable Modern homes were created for the general home buying audience. With 225 built (and sold) homes by Poon Design within only the past few years, I think I know what I am talking about.

Excerpts below. YouTube clip here. Audio podcast here. Also, please read this recent feature by Michael Webb, Anthony Poon Delivers Modernism to Tract Housing.

Residences at Alta Verde Escena, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo from Google Earth)
Linea Residence T, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design and Andrew Adler (photo by Hunter Kerhart)

Josh Cooperman: What is “Modern for the Masses”? Modern is an idea that you have embraced wholeheartedly and the idea of creating it for the masses is simply a . . . How do you jive those two and what’s the idea behind it?

Escena Garden Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design and Interior Illusions (photo by Lance Gerber)

Anthony Poon: Our thesis, Modern for the Masses came out of a study of a lot of homes in LA—the ones that we see in the magazines, the glossy pictures, the websites, the homes that we love in the Hollywood Hills that sell for 10 million dollars. The challenge was this: How can we create these beautiful modern homes for a fraction of the price? Build them at production level, a mass production level, and sell them.

We teamed with a developer/designer, Andrew Adler, who found distressed properties in Palm Springs. We designed a few prototypes, very Modern, not at all what you see in tract housing. Not the cheap Spanish style homes with the small windows, the fat trim, the fake tile roofs, and the wedding cake décor.

Our Modern homes are very strictly Modern. Lots of glass, open space, very sleek. To date, in the last four years, we’ve completed over 200 homes. And they’ve all been built, they’re all sold, they’ve been published extensively, and we’ve been awarded over two dozen national and regional design awards. It’s a program that has not been accomplished, as far as I know, by any other architecture studio other than Mid-Century Modern, and we’re talking about going back over 60 years.

Linea Residence G, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design and Andrew Adler (photo by James Butchart)

 

Linea Residence L, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design and Andrew Adler (photo by James Butchart)

Josh: Your theory has been tested and it appears to have passed. Why?

Anthony: Because there is a demographic out there that has not been served. These tract housing companies that build communities of 100 homes—they rubber stamp these homes out. They’re not selling. People aren’t interested in these homes.

Our imagined home buyer is someone that wants the modern lifestyle, someone that believes in technology, iPhone, iPad, completely connected all the time. Also, someone who has a concern for sustainability, for being green. Those three things were critical to us and of course, all of these things needed to be done on a budget that was about one-fourth what you would see most homes in California being built for. That was our perfect storm. Our homes have outsold all competing developers in Palm Springs because we have a product that everyone’s been dying for.

Escena Arcadia Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Lance Gerber)
Escena Arcadia Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Lance Gerber)

Josh: There has to be some things that are limited or cut out. There has to be. What is it? What is being removed?

Anthony: There is nothing being removed. In fact, what we’re adding is a certain kind of value that makes a home better and happens to save money in construction dollars. I wouldn’t say we’re cutting or reducing anything. It’s just the way we’re rethinking architecture.

For a typical traditional house in Beverly Hills, there’s the entry, there’s the foyer, the hallway, the powder room, the niches. What do we need all that for? It’s not even what people want, and it’s what’s driving up construction costs, like framing 20 different ceilings heights throughout a house.

Escena Panorama Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design and Interior Illusions (photo by Lance Gerber)
Linea Residence T, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design, Andrew Adler and Interior Illusions (photo by Hunter Kerhart)

Josh: In fact, you’re just using what you have for the greatest effect.

Anthony: It’s similar to the approach that Minimal art can have a few brush strokes and still be dramatic and impactful for the composition. In that way, you could say that we’ve cut out pieces of architecture. I’m saying we actually added to the essence of a house.

Coral Mountain Residence Z, La Quinta, California, by Poon Design (photo by George Guttenberg)

Josh: The concept of the traditional tract home—I’m wondering why it doesn’t work. What is it going to take for your idea to expand to a general market?

Anthony: I think tract housing is failing because these companies are large. They’re money-driven. They’re stuck in old ideas. It takes a lot to turn a company around and look towards the future.

I think of the example of Tower Records. If you recall, a decade ago, MP3 players came out, iPods. Tower Records claimed that it was just a fad that they would hold onto their LPs and their albums. And look what happened to them. Tower Records is gone. iTunes has taken over the world.

So, these tract home companies that we compete with and that we beat out month to month, they’re stuck in these old ideas, these weird big Mediterranean homes, these things I call ‘Taco Bell Homes’—no one wants them anymore.

The community of Alta Verde Escena, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Anthony Poon)

#81: TEN THOUGHTS, TEN MINUTES

April 13, 2018

Beams of desert sun breaking between the mountains, entering the master bedroom suite. Modern Villa, Monte Sereno, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Lance Gerber)

Take ten minutes and get ten thoughts for your design project.

Besides architecture, these ten thoughts can apply to many other pursuits, from graphic design to gardening, from composing music to creating life itself. (All designs by Anthony Poon and/or Poon Design Inc.)

 

1. LIGHT

An entry hall welcomes the morning light. Residence G, Linea, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by The Agency)

Luminosity, natural or artificial, places a static environment into motion.

 

2. PATTERN

Color bands of brick and concrete on the walls, with color bands of slate on the roof. DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, photo by HHPA)

Give your surroundings pace and tempo. Rhythm isn’t just for music.

 

3. COLOR

Shower tile: four shades of green glass tiles by Ann Sacks. S/B House, Encino, California, by Poon Design (photo by Poon Design)

Colors make surfaces recede or stand out. At turns, colors soothe and enliven.

 

4. CRAFT

Vaudeville signage and reclaimed wood planks, with blackened custom steel details. Mendocino Farms, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (photo by Poon Design)

A thoughtful, well-constructed project will last a lifetime, and even change in meaning over time.

 

5. TEXTURE

Textures of ground face and split face concrete block, vertical redwood siding and corrugated galvanized metal siding. Special Education classroom, Feather River Academy, Yuba City, California, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E, photo by Gregory Blore)

Texture gives the body something to touch and the eye something to eat.

 

6. SURPRISE

A cow makes a surprising appearance, as well as vibrant wallcovering within. Arcadia Residence, Escena, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Lance Gerber)

Unexpected moments deliver flair and amazement. Predictable architecture is boring.

 

7. SCALE

A mix of scales: small classrooms within a big atrium. Herget Middle School, West Aurora, Illinois, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E, photo by Mark Ballogg)

Grand scale is heroic. Small scale is intimate. Choose the appropriate scale for the activity in mind.

 

8. HUMOR

Two unlikely bright colors make up a stimulating composition. Roberto Lane, Bel Air, California, by Poon Design (photo by Anthony Poon)

Why can’t architecture have wit, irony and charm? It should.

 

9. COURAGE

Gateway to the city. Proposed new Reds Baseball Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio, by Anthony Poon (w/ NBBJ, photo by John Lodge)

Chase your dreams. Don’t be timid. And it might take some guts and perseverance to get results.

 

10. PLEASURE

Private dining areas as glowing lanterns. Chaya Downtown, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (rendering by Biolinia)

Good design should challenge you and please you. Architecture might test you, but know that delight and satisfaction are close.

#6: MODERN FOR THE MASSES

April 10, 2015

Z-3 Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by George Guttenberg)

It started with an idea that the essential qualities of luxury modern residences could be delivered to the mainstream marketplace at affordable prices.

Custom modern residences are evident throughout California, but what average American family can afford such homes ranging from a few million dollars to upward of $20 million? On the other hand, affordable tract housing proliferate our suburbs, but do these faux-Mediterranean-Spanish-inspired stucco boxes have architectural integrity, relevance and merit?

Panorama Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Lance Gerber)
Panorama Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Lance Gerber)

For Poon Design, infusing tract housing, also known as production housing, with modern luxury design was a new kind of challenge, a different kind of business, and an entirely distinctive kind of architecture. As client/developer Andrew Adler, CEO of Alta Verde Group, has put it: “We are democratizing good design.”

While somewhat new for architecture, democratizing good design has been demonstrated by a number of world famous designers, such Michael Graves designing a product for Target. Graves first designed his famous tea kettle 25 years ago for Alessi, an Italian kitchen utensil distributor that represented some of the most well-known architects and designers of the time, such as Ettore Sottsass, Philippe Starck and Zaha Hadid. Many of Alessi’s products are so celebrated that they are in the permanent museum collections, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The tea kettle Graves designed for Alessi was priced at several hundred dollars to the luxury buyer seeking.

Many years later, Graves designed a very similar tea kettle for Target—and it costs less than $40. The two kettles were near exact in concept and details. Graves’s design went from being offered to the sophisticated, wealthy and elite, to the average person, who although shopping on a budget, still seeks and appreciates good design.

B3-Living-Room-Med

top: B-3 Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (staging by Interior Illusions); bottom: I-3 Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photos by Chris Miller)

Poon Design adopted this for architecture, at the first of four communities designed and constructed with Alta Verde in Palm Springs, at a development called Escena. With Mr. Adler as design partner, Poon Design developed four home prototypes for 130 lots on 21 acres. The 3-bedroom prototypes captured many ideas, both proven and exploratory: extended roof overhangs for passive cooling and protection from the heat; drought tolerant native landscape; regional building materials; reflective energy efficient cool roof; electric car chargers; LED lighting; and rooftop solar panels.

Horizon Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Lance Gerber)
Horizon Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Lance Gerber)

We promoted a new kind of architecture that we entitled, “This Century Modern,” which was a nod to the popular title, “Mid-Century Modern.” Currently 100 homes have been built and sold, and new phases of construction are ongoing, many homes pre-sold. Our architecture has been bestowed with a dozen national design awards.

Though just homes, the force and impact of great architecture can come at a community scale, acknowledging a framework for how a municipality might evolve. The blank canvas for ground breaking residential design is not only the single lot for one homeowner, but rather, it can be for entire neighborhoods.

Zen Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design, interior staging by Interior Illusions (photo by Lance Gerber)
Zen Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design, (staging by Interior Illusions, photo by Lance Gerber)
© Poon Design Inc.