Tag Archives: INSTAGRAM

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 ORIGINALITY OF BEING ORIGINAL

September 21, 2018

A bold proposal: Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, Los Angeles, California (photo by Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)

In the 2004 film, Garden State, Natalie Portman asks Zach Braff, “You know what I do when I feel completely unoriginal?” She then performs a few awkward dance moves accompanied by shrieking and squealing.

Portman states, “I make a noise, or I do something that no one has ever done before, and then I can feel unique, even if it is only for like, a second.”

She proclaims, “You just witnessed a completely original moment.”

Zach Braff and Natalie Portman in Garden State (2004)

I ask this: Is there such a thing as originality, and is there value to being original?

left: Cambridge Center for Visual Arts, Massachusetts (photo from lescoulerus.ch); right: Kenneth Cooper House, Orleans, Massachusetts (photo from Gwathmey on Twitter)

For the first question, originality is hard to spot. Sometimes we see it and are convinced that we are experiencing something original. Later, we realize that it derivative of something else, or simply part of an evolution of ideas throughout time.

upper: Casa Prieto Lopez, Mexico (photo from pinsdaddy.com); lower: Villa Sotogrande, Spain (photo by Hector Gazguez)

Additionally, two creators could come up with the same original idea. Having done so independently, we still claim that each person’s idea is indeed original.

To the second question, what value is there in being original? Is there purpose to being novel for novelty’s sake, or being unusual simply for being different? For the most part, being forcefully unique in the creative process has little weight. But here and there, that one innovative idea might be the catalyst that ignites a truly original invention from another innovator, artist or genius. In the arc of evolving ideas, I personally assign value to those that seek to be novel if only to do something different.

As unique and bizarre as the examples below are, one might say that they serve no purpose other than to indulge an architect’s whimsical agenda. On the other hand, these examples do no harm (do they?) and again, they might prompt me to challenge my own creative complacency.

upper left: Sarpi Border Checkpoint, Georgia (photo from archiobjects.org); upper right: Louis Vuitton, London, England (photo from highsnobiety.com); lower left: Urban Interiorities, Tokyo, Japan (photo from archiobjects.org); lower right: Elbphilharmonic Concert Hall, Hamburg, Germany (photo from homedit.com)

Additionally, originality has to do with context. Just because one person experiences something as original, does the creation in question automatically win the label of originality? A tree does make a sound in the forest even if no one is listening. Also, you did have a great vacation even if you forgot to Instagram your photos. Similarly, if an unaware person experiences originality, like a child discovering ice cream for the first time, then so be it.

Bust of Ludwig Van Beethoven (photo from evastegeman.com)

In regards to context and evolution, Beethoven’s third and final period of composing was so original that it left his colleagues far behind in terms of creativity. In such works as Beethoven’s Late Great Piano Sonatas, no one could understand what the mad composer had written, and the result was the breaking of the linear progression of music evolution. Not only did composers leave Beethoven’s third period of work unstudied until decades later, colleagues like Schubert and Schumann chose to pick up where Beethoven left off in his second period. Because they just didn’t understand what the heck was going on in this third period of original music.

The Shape of Water (2017)

Though last year’s The Shape of Water took home the award for Best Picture, I found the movie an unoriginal creation. Fully packed with weary story clichés and formulaic visual devices, critics everywhere complained of similarities of this Oscar-winning film to 1954’s Creature from the Black Lagoon, 1969’s Let Me Hear You Whisper, and 1984’s Splash, just to name a few. Regardless of being unoriginal accompanied by one legal case of plagiarism, The Shape of Water collected three additional Academy Awards with record-setting 13 nominations, alongside box office accolades.

As I work hard to offer innovative ideas to the world,  perhaps recognition will arrive at my doorstep if I simply discard the pursuit of originality, and instead copy, imitate or steal. (Not serious, of course.)

(I further studied the idea of uniqueness in design and style with my companion essay, It All Sounds the Same to Me.)

© Poon Design Inc.