Tag Archives: J.S. BACH


November 18, 2022

Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, India, by Louis Kahn (photo by Abhishek Donda, Unsplash)

”If you think of Brick, you say to Brick, ‘What do you want, Brick?’

“And Brick says to you, ‘I like an Arch.’

“And if you say to Brick, ‘Look, arches are expensive, and I can use a concrete lintel over you. What do you think of that, Brick?’

“Brick says, ‘I like an Arch.’

“And it’s important, you see, that you honor the material that you use. You can only do it if you honor the brick and glorify the brick instead of shortchanging it.” So proclaimed Louis Kahn.

Louis Kahn,1901-1974 (photo from architectural-review.com)

When classical composers wrote music, the work was specific to the instruments selected. No one would ever imagine Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto featuring a clarinet, rather than the virtuoso 88 keys of a piano. That would not only be outrageous to consider, but blasphemous.

But when J.S. Bach composed his world-famous violin concertos, he also recommended that the lead part need not be a violin, but could be a piano or even an oboe—or what have you. This nonchalance argues that there is nothing authentic or integral in what he has written—that the music can be sacrilegious to the instrument. Is the piano and the oboe dishonest to the violin?

J.S. Bach, 1685-1750 (photo from oae.co.uk)

If one thinks of music as a physical building material, then Bach’s approach is unfaithful to the inherent qualities of a material. Architecturally speaking, Bach would suggest that a wood structure could also be made of glass or a glass building successful in brick. But what would I.M. Pei’s pyramid at the Louvre be if not sleek glass and delicate steel? What would it be as brick?

Pyramid at the Louvre Museum, Paris, France, I.M. Pei (photo by Mika Baumeister, Unsplash)

Building materials have essential qualities, both within the laws of physics as well as emotional perception. For example, concrete has the capacity to bear weight, hence its use in foundations and structural walls. Concrete also has an innate personality of strength and durability. But steel, which can also takes on the role of muscularity, can be used with sinuous subtlety.

Salk Institute for Biological Studies, San Diego, California, by Louis Kahn (photo by Sam Li, Unsplash)

Historically, glass serves as a window, a view through a solid wall in which to look out and let in light. Transparency was inherent to glass. But in contemporary architecture, glass is not necessarily clear. Glass can be a construction material that solidly wraps a building, similar to stone, wood, or plaster. With opaque glazing, such as spandrel glass, one is not expected to see through the material at all, but now something you look at.

132 Rosetti, Basel, Switzerland, Herzog and de Meuron (photo by Margherita Spiluttini)

Whether respecting the intrinsic nature of materials—or of classical instruments—or whether the approach is one of contemporary interpretation or even irony, materials have integral truths, righteous morality even, as Kahn might suggest. Bach often implied: Know the rules before you decide to break them.

London, England (photo by Viktor Forgacs, Unsplash)


May 31, 2019

Within the studio of Poon Design Inc.: raw, industrial, collaborative and exploratory.

For myself, I applaud. Today I am publishing my 101st essay on this platform! In traditional terms, this effort would constitute a 500-page book, not even counting photos. For this blog (web-log: for those who don’t know), I have avoided writing silly tweets, mere blurbs and convenient commentary. Instead, I have sought to author articles of substantial thought—researched, illustrated and well composed. To accompany this 101st article, a video was created on Poon Design Inc., by videographer, Grant Bozigian.

Our design for a seminal 120,000-square-foot Asian lifestyle center for Orange County. First floor: Asian seafood market. Second floor: Korean spa. Third floor: Japanese karaoke bar. Fourth floor: Chinese garden restaurant.

I invite you to watch our video here .

As we started this project, I studied videos about architecture companies. Some too long, some too short, some weirdly paced, and some with no substance at all. Most of the corporate marketing videos had a talking head in a suit, usually an old white guy talking tediously about being “on budget and on schedule.” Is this content worthy of a video?

One video from a prestigious design company used a single gimmick: staff members talking about a certain material they like, such as stone or metal. Interesting as an idea, yes—but over and over again? I endlessly watched one anonymous staffer after another approaching the camera with a big piece of glass or tile. It’s a one-trick pony.

I was unfortunate to run across a video that didn’t show any images of the architecture, which I assume is what most audiences want to see. Instead, this architect presented the company’s logo in various animated forms. It was absurd, and I wondered: Who cares?

Studies of skylight shades, first hand sketched, then made into a small desktop model, followed by a half-size mock up, finally milled out of plywood and installed at the restaurant, Din Tai Fung at South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, and Din Tai Fung at The American at Brand, Glendale, California.

I found the poor videos shocking, because a video is very architectural—in that it is spatial, experiential, and a journey through time. Shouldn’t an architect be able to conceive of a creative video, just as she would design a creative building?

Me at a Steinway concert grand in Palos Verdes, California.

With the making of our video, I sought to tell a story, as well as show images of the work of Poon Design. The video is in three parts: a little about me, who we are as a studio and what we do, and finally, our interest in the creative process and storytelling. I hope you enjoy it. Our videographer also composed the music, except of course for the beginning which I thank J.S. Bach for his Praeludium from Partita No. 1 in B flat major, BMV 825.

The Goodyear blimp hovers over our WV Mixed-Use Project in Manhattan Beach, California, while a jet does a flyby at our C.A.P. Mixed-Use project in Mid-City Los Angeles, California.

Look for some wonderful details. Avoiding the cliché, often-ridiculed-Ken-Burns-panning of photographs, we animated some still images with a subtle motion between the foreground and background. The first project starts with a fortunate footage catching the Goodyear blimp in the sky. Complementing this, an airplane soars through a computer rendering later in the video. My company video ends with the same project from the start, but now at dusk, as the design goes to sleep.

Our creative process.

We show not just the pretty pictures of our designs, but also the creative mess behind it: our disorganized but sincere desks, dusty cardboard models, color pencils in entropy, sketches of good and bad ideas, the typical rolls and rolls of drawings, and an artist’s palette of acrylic paints.

One of my passions: making mixed-media art.


© Poon Design Inc.