Tag Archives: FACEBOOK

SOCIAL MEDIA IN A WORLD OF #DISCONNECTING

January 17, 2020

One of the most photographed and Instagrammed scenes in Los Angeles, the exterior pink wall at the Paul Smith boutique, Los Angeles, California (photo by Anthony Poon)

Is there purpose in social media for the industry of architecture? I have heard about the exposure an architect can get from incessant posting on Instagram, Facebook, Linked In, etc. But as colleagues brag about numerous followers and subscribers, I ask several questions: What is the currency of Insta followers? Is there tangible value beyond bragging rights? If anyone can simply buy anonymous followers (as in fake), does it matter whether you have 1,000 subscribers or 1 million?

Instagram: @anthonypoondesign and @anthonypoonart

A test of one’s authenticity is not the number of followers but the percentage of engagement. Meaning, for each post, how many followers respond, comment, and/or like? If only a tiny handful of your so-called one million followers engage with your post, this then is evidence that the high volume of seemingly excited fans doesn’t exist at all, probably purchased from an app and algorithm.

Linked In: Anthony Poon and Poon Design Inc.

At Poon Design Inc., we do participate in this universe of socials, not too actively, but we do. We feel that we have to, as we try to keep up with the Jones and their pretty pictures. We understand that a digital presence has some importance in establishing our brand. But who really follows the social media of architecture studios? We hope it is our clients, or maybe the teenage daughter of one our clients? Are our past clients Rick Caruso and Donald Bren personally surfing Instagram and Facebook every morning looking for architects to hire for their gazillion-dollar developments? Probably not.

Alongside the Paul Smith store (above), this is the other most photographed and Instagrammed scenes in Los Angeles, the lamp posts at Urban Light by Chris Burden, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California (photo from Pinterest/Julianne)

One resulting evil of all this hoopla is what is referred to as the “Instagrammable Moment.” This is that one photograph, that one single moment that supposedly captures the essence of an entire architectural project. And such Instagrammable moments run rampantly redundant on the Internet, i.e. the lamp posts at LACMA or the pink wall of the Paul Smith boutique on Melrose. There is nothing wrong with a beautiful image, but is it superficial and even cruel to reduce the rich journey called architecture down to a single moment in time, a single visual gesture? Who reduces an entire novel to one sentence, for the mere purpose of easily-digestible PR? The additional problem is that some architects design their whole project with that one Instagrammable image in mind, as if nothing else matters.

Often seen on social media, the soaring and dynamic (and somewhat misleading) image of the U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota (photo from archdaily.com)
The full story of the stadium looking clunky and clumsy in comparison to the Instagrammed image of soaring and dynamic architecture (photo from americanfootball.fandom.com)

So back to currency, what can an architect do with a “bank account” of followers? So far, other than the periodic amusement of posting a nice picture and seeing who comments, I personally haven’t figured out the value of all this commotion. Didn’t we all enjoy Facebook for a brief moment, only to now see that no one uses it anymore?

Facebook: Poon Design Inc.

THE WORLD FAMOUS FRANK GEHRY AND THE BEST JOB I DIDN’T WANT

December 9, 2016

The Model Shop at Gehry Partners, Los Angeles (photo by Thomas Mayer)

I got the job! Unfortunately.

Not too many architecture companies were hiring during the economic recession of the 90’s. Though I held an impressive piece of simulated parchment that stated in fancy calligraphy, “Master of Architecture,” I could only find temp work as a paralegal, basically a data entry person.

After two years, one of my hundreds of resumes reached the right person. I received a call from the offices of Frank O. Gehry and Partners!

Biomuseo, Panama (photo by Victoria Murillo)
Biomuseo, Panama (photo by Victoria Murillo)

Yes. FRANK GEHRY. The formidable architectural genius of his generation. The most important American architect since Frank Lloyd Wright.

Dr. Chau Chak Wing Building, University of Technology Sydney, New South Wales, Australia (photo by Eve Wilson)
Dr. Chau Chak Wing Building, University of Technology Sydney, New South Wales, Australia (photo by Eve Wilson)

The Gehry interviewer welcomed me, shook my hand, and examined my resume. With tie and blazer, I sat there thinking my application was solid: noteworthy degrees, years of experience in San Francisco and New York City, and a handful of letters of rec. I had my portfolio as well, but as you’ll see, we never got to that.

Showing no indication of being impressed, the interviewer asked dryly, “Do you know how to use a table saw? A band saw? A palm sander?”

I smiled confidently, “Yes, of course.” But I was starting to see where this meeting was going.

I realized that I was not being interviewed for an architectural position, not even a drafting role. I was being interviewed for the infamous “Model Shop,” where young professionals set their egos aside and laboriously, meticulously produce physical models of Gehry’s designs. Some were beautiful presentation models with the quality of fine furniture. Some were rough studies of an inkling of an idea that the genius architect dreamt up in his sleep.

Model Shop displaying the new Facebook Campus (photo from Facebook Corporate Communications)
Model Shop displaying the new Facebook Campus (photo by Facebook Corporate Communications)

Nonetheless, I swallowed my pride. I needed a job that was in my field, regardless of whether I was designing one of Gehry’s concert halls or emptying his trash can. Regardless of the backward step for my career arc, I expressed my most convincing enthusiasm about joining this Gehry organization. After all, my updated resume would carry one of the grandest architectural names of all time.

The interviewer congratulated me, “Okay, you got the job!”

Starting pay was a generous $8 an hour. Adding insult to injury, the interviewer then laid out the terms. Every year, each Model Shop employee gets an automatic raise. That sounded promising, until, with a weird congratulatory wink-wink-smile, he added, “Each year, you get 25 cents more on your hourly rate.”

Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Las Vegas, Nevada (photo by David Giral)
Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Las Vegas, Nevada (photo by David Giral)

(Was this a joke? Did I hear wrong? I calculated that it would take me 16 years to get back to the salary of my first job as an entry-level architect in New York.)

I pushed back all the warnings in my head, and replied, “I would be honored,” again delivered with a convincing tone. I could not return to being a paralegal temp.

The tipping point was not a point, but a blow.

Winton Guest House, original location: Wayzata, Minnesota, current location: University of St. Thomas, Owatonna, Minnesota (photo from artribune.com)
Winton Guest House, original location: Wayzata, Minnesota, current location: University of St. Thomas, Owatonna, Minnesota (photo from artribune.com)

When the interviewer asked me when I could start the job, I responded, “In a week.”

“No, it must be much sooner,” demanded the interviewer.

I squealed, “How about in three days?”

He pressed, exclaiming, “No, even sooner.”

Frank Gehry at work (photo from Sketches of Frank Gehry)
Frank Gehry at work (photo from Sketches of Frank Gehry)

It was past 9 PM. The interviewer announced his command. “We have many deadlines, and I need you to take off that tie.” He pointed to a stack of plywood surrounded by tools, and with no wink-wink this time, he asserted, “Start your job NOW.”

At this point, the magic of the Pritzker-Prize-winning, AIA Gold Medalist Frank Gehry evaporated like a handprint on the surface of water.

I picked up my unseen portfolio, rejected the offer, and left the offices of Gehry. With my tie still on.

Within a year, I officially launched my own firm. Yes, my company also has a model shop. Just this morning, I used the band saw to cut my own pieces of plywood.

For more, read my review on the Gehry retrospective at LACMA.

© Poon Design Inc.