Tag Archives: HERGET MIDDLE SCHOOL

WHO WILL BE MY CLIENT?

July 8, 2016

Arena for 2000 Olympics, Sydney, Australia, by Anthony Poon (w/ NBBJ)

In architecture school, our professors provided us with projects to design. Example: For this semester, design a sports arena in San Francisco, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

But here is the thing: How does an architect land such a project after graduation? This is a challenging question to ponder after you leave the comforts of school, after you have made the premature decision to start your own architecture company from your apartment. And you realize that you have no clients. Not a sports arena. Not even a bathroom addition. None at all.

Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy, by Leon Battista Alberti and Giorgio Vasari (photo by wanderfly)
Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy, by Leon Battista Alberti and Giorgio Vasari (photo by wanderfly)

Everyone sees homes, theaters, parks and shopping centers within our communities, but how does an architect get hired to design them?

Many architects would kill for a system I call the Medici Effect. Within such a circumstance, an architect can sustain a career through the loyal patronage of a single client—be it an individual, a retail chain, or a university. This Medici Effect is a client-architect relationship where decade after decade, the faithful client provides the architect with projects.

Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flowers, Florence, Italy, by Arnolfo di Cambio (photo by Petar Milosevic)
Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flowers, Florence, Italy, by Arnolfo di Cambio (photo by Petar Milosevic)

From the 15th to the 18th century, the Medici family reigned supreme in Florence. As wool merchants initially, then formidable bankers later, this family commissioned Renaissance painters, sculptors and writers. And yes, architects too.

Alongside hiring painters Michelangelo, Raphael and Rubens, and the scientist Galileo, the Medici’s supported architects most of all: Alberti, Vasari, Buontalenti and Bartolomeo, just to name a few. As one of the most powerful clans throughout Europe, the Medici family bankrolled the entire career of any architect of their choosing, as well as completing building upon building—from palaces to churches, from museums to hospitals.

Pterodactyle, Culver City, California, by Eric Owen Moss Architects (photo by Architect)
Pterodactyle, Culver City, California, by Eric Owen Moss Architects (photo by Architect)
Samitaur Tower, Culver City, California, by Eric Owen Moss Architects (photo by Tom Bonner)
Samitaur Tower, Culver City, California, by Eric Owen Moss Architects (photo by Tom Bonner)

Though a wonderful tale from hundreds of years ago, this Medici Effect does continue today. A contemporary example can be found in Culver City, where a husband/wife, client/developer team of Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith has sustained a 30-year patronage of Eric Owen Moss Architects. Project after project, the Smiths have produced a city-scale portfolio of buildings through the talents of this single architect

During fortunate periods of my career, my Medici’s have appeared in the form of developers, retiring architects, friends, and even a public school district. What I have learned so far, if I have learned anything at all, is that an architect should base a career on relationships not contracts. If an architect’s entire career revolves around one hundred projects, it is better to find ten patrons that might each give you ten commissions vs. finding one hundred individual clients.

It should be taught in architecture schools, and it should be a directive at the workplace: Build relationships and attract clients. At many law firms, entry-level attorneys, even paralegals, are requested to bring in clients.

DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, photo by Pfeiffer Partners)
DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, photo by Pfeiffer Partners)

Architecture is not just about earth shattering design, but about marketing, business development and public relations. If you are simple minded, call it “schmoozing.” If you are intelligent, call it good business. And, if you are human, call it survival.

ARCHITECTURE FOR LEARNING

August 28, 2015

Multipurpose building, Feather River Academy, Yuba City, California, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E, photo by Gregory Blore)

Certainly, Poon Design has designed luxury estates for A-listers, Michelin-rated restaurants, and hospitality projects for cities like Beverly Hills.

Moreover, Poon Design thrives for a greater good. We embrace our opportunities for a higher social purpose, where vital agendas advance the lives of individuals and their communities. Of all our project types, we find ourselves grounded when designing educational buildings and campuses.

The school is one of the most influential works of architecture. Whether for a child, teenager, young adult or lifelong learner, architecture for knowledge substantiates one’s existence. Poon Design’s solutions promote curiosity, embrace social interaction, and inspire leadership, whether it is for an elementary school, student union or university library.

I have been fortunate, having designed over 50 educational projects. Focusing on young students, the four schools below tell my story of designing for Pre-K to 12th grade. (Future posts will discuss my work for higher education.)

Central courtyard, Bel Air Presbyterian Preschool, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (rendering by Mike Amaya)
Central courtyard, Bel Air Presbyterian Preschool, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (rendering by Amaya)

BEL AIR PRESBYTERIAN PRESCHOOL, Los Angeles, California

As the first structured environment a child experiences, a preschool serves as both an introduction to the world and one’s first civic duty. At 23,000 square feet perched high in the Santa Monica Mountains, our “Village of Discovery” is ambitious: 120 students, 11 classrooms, 5 play yards, 3 pavilions for library/music/art, multipurpose hall, and administration building.

Poon Design’s vision delivers a community of small scaled, cedar buildings with large sheltering overhangs. Features include bamboo classroom flooring, butterfly and hummingbird gardens, and an amphitheater.

Central courtyard, Bel Air Presbyterian Preschool, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (rendering by Mike Amaya)
Central courtyard, Bel Air Presbyterian Preschool, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (rendering by Amaya)

GREENMAN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, West Aurora, Illinois

This 63,000-square foot school finds innovative ways for the performing arts to flourish. The extra-wide staircase doubles as audience seating for impromptu performances. Second story balconies overlook double height spaces. Window compositions express rhythm and harmony. The 700 students are arranged in seven Small Learning Communities, alongside facilities for students of Aurora University—for hands-on, in-classroom training of future teachers.

top: Lobby and amphitheater staircase; bottom: Street façade, Greenman Elementary School, Aurora, Illinois, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E and Cordogan, Clark & Associates, photos by Mark Ballogg)
top: Lobby and amphitheater staircase; bottom: Street façade, Greenman Elementary School, Aurora, Illinois, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E and Cordogan, Clark & Associates, photos by Mark Ballogg)

HERGET MIDDLE SCHOOL, West Aurora, Illinois

With the metaphor of the American heartland, our 113,000-square foot school for 850 students sits as a heroic farmhouse on the 38-acre rural property.

Why do most schools have a monotonous narrow hallway, flanked by metal lockers? For our design, the light filled hallway is no hallway. It is 60 feet wide (not the standard 12 feet) and 30 feet tall (not the standard 9 feet). Rather than merely circulation, our groundbreaking energy-filled hall IS the library, technology center, life skills lab, and wood shop. Field stone, standing seam metal, brick walls, and wood plank details capture the vernacular design metaphor. Roof lines recall the old barns that once stood on the site.

top: Technology center and “Grand Hall”; bottom: Overall view, Herget Middle School, Aurora, Illinois, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E and Cordogan, Clark & Associates, photos by Mark Ballogg)
top: Technology center and “Grand Hall”; bottom: Overall view, Herget Middle School, Aurora, Illinois, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E and Cordogan, Clark & Associates, photos by Mark Ballogg)

FEATHER RIVER ACADEMY, Yuba City, California

Rather than design a single building with parking in front and playfields in back, we explore the school’s mission statement of “Learning in Action,” by interweaving the program across the entire property. The 25,000 square foot, 180-student school serves students referred by the probation department, expelled by their local schools, or even homeless.

Our undulating roofs create an ever-changing journey—symbolic of the path of learning. The campus itself is an open textbook, where aspects of the architecture teaches. As one example, the paving has the solar system inscribed in the concrete, where the paths of the planets arc throughout the property. An illustration of Pluto marks the school’s entry, Earth is described in the central courtyard, and the sun is represented by an eight-foot tall sundial.

top: Special education building and classroom buildings; bottom: Multipurpose and administration buildings, Feather River Academy, Yuba City, California, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E, photos by Gregory Blore)
top: Special education building and classroom buildings; bottom: Multipurpose and administration buildings, Feather River Academy, Yuba City, California, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E, photos by Gregory Blore)

We are honored to have received dozens of local and national design awards from KnowledgeWorks, DesignShare, Edutopia, Illinois Association of School Boards, and the American School & University Magazine, just to name a few.

Most significantly, our work has been honored twice with the National Grand Prize, given jointly from Learning By Design, The American Institute of Architects, and National School Boards Associations—for the best designed school in the country.

“School District 129 is fortunate to have Anthony Poon learn about us, and capture our spirit and beliefs about education in the buildings we will build for our children. I believe that Anthony’s thinking and his work is extraordinary, and will find its way to many honors. He will create the future dreams of this nation.” – Dr. Sherry Eagle, former Superintendent in West Aurora, Illinois, and Executive Director for the Institute for Collaboration at Aurora University.

© Poon Design Inc.