Tag Archives: JAY-Z


November 5, 2021

Taipei Stadium, Taipei, Taiwan, by Anthony Poon (w/ NBBJ, photo by John Lodge)

“Host Jeff Haber shares conversations with interesting people from all walks of life, using a positive, uplifting and funny approach,” from the podcast series, No Bed of Roses, brought to you by Kenxus. Edited excerpts below are from the full podcast of episode #1030. Take a look at part 1 and part 2.

Jeff Haber: Along with design, you are an accomplished musician. What happened first for you growing up? Did you have a design bug? Did you have a music bug? Did you have any bugs at all? When did it start for you as a child?

Feeling Orange, 20” x 24”, 2019, by Anthony Poon

Anthony Poon: I would say I had a creative bug as a child. And it wasn’t specifically music or architecture. It was just the interest to make things, to build things, to take things apart. The different areas of my interests—architecture, writing, painting, music—they’re not separate endeavors. It’s all falls under one big umbrella of creativity and trying to communicate ideas through whatever medium I happen to be working on. Writing a musical number is not too much different than designing a Buddhist temple, or writing an essay. So when I was young, I played the piano, I painted, I drew, I played with Lego. It all kind of happened at the same time. It wasn’t a specific “bug.” It was just this interest in exploring and being creative—and the act of discovery.

Schroeder from the Peanuts, created by Charles M. Schulz (from vegalleries.com)

Jeff: You started as a classically-trained pianist. I saw that you were into jazz as well. Do you have something that you’re more drawn to musically?

Anthony: I’m drawn to jazz, probably because I can’t play it. A classically-trained musician and jazz music that is improvised and played spontaneously are two very different things. It’s like asking an opera singer to perform hip hop and rap.

left: Luciano Pavarotti (photo from wallpapercave.com); right: Jay-Z (photo from nytimes.com)

I have spent years of my life learning one classical piece, trying to master every one of those 100,000 notes that fly across the keyboard. One note off and my music teacher would say, “Well, that entire performance is ruined.”

Piano Sonata in B minor, by Franz Liszt, (from omifacsimiles.com)

I compare that to jazz musicians who just sit down at the piano or pick up their saxophone, and they just start playing. They’re just making things up. If there’s a mistake, let’s say a pianist hits an off note or the wrong harmony, he will bang that note a few more times to make sure you hear it. And then turn it into something!

That’s a kind of mentality doesn’t exist in my classical training, my pursuit for the absolute truth and perfection. Jazz is about spontaneity and playing impromptu, and it’s just fascinating to me. I’ve also been interested in how this jazz process can apply to the way we design our buildings. This goes back to overlaps and thinking of all this as being under one creative umbrella.

Jeff: For design, do you need to be that specific, as you do it in your approach to classical music?

Anthony: The traditional approach to architecture is kind of like studying classical music. It’s very rigorous, it’s methodical, and it takes years to design and build a building, sometimes decades. And in the sense that one piano note off and the whole performance is ruined relates to one calculation off for a steel truss in a movie theater and the entire roof collapses.

Under construction, DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, by Anthony Poon when w/ HHPA (photo by HHPA)

I like to add the jazz process into the creative architectural process, because sometimes I find the design process to be overwrought. I rather see what we can generate by doing things quickly, keeping an even flow of conversation. If we’re designing, let’s just grab whatever tools are at hand; let’s keep it loose and free to see what ideas we come up with. Both approaches, classical music and jazz music, have a place in the architectural process.


October 9, 2015

$500 million residence under construction, Bel Air, California (photo by McClean Design/Caters News Agency

Down my street, a colossal house (if you can call it a “house”) is under construction. Staggering statistics. Completing next summer, this 112,000-square-foot speculative house will list for $500 million. You read it correctly: not $5 million or $50 million.

But Five Hundred Million Bucks!

Brought to us by Hollywood-film-producer-turned-home-builder Nile Niami, the contemporary estate has a main residence with three additional homes, a 5000-square-foot master bedroom suite, four swimming pools, a 30-car garage, and a lawn the size of half a football field. This modern day castle will come not just furnished, but fully styled. Not only will the dining chairs be selected and window treatments installed, the artwork will be curated and procured. Even the toilet paper will be carefully specified, and presented on handmade dispensers by Italian millworkers.

Persson residence, Trousdale Estates, California, by Roman James Design Build (photo by The Pinnacle List)
Persson residence, Trousdale Estates, California, by Roman James Design Build (photo by The Pinnacle List)

In comparison, the recent sale of the nearby $70 million Trousdale Estates residence to Minecraft creator Markus Persson seems like a modest hillside condo. Because Persson came to the deal with hard cold cash practically in bags, he beat out Beyonce and Jay-Z who lacked this leverage and nerve.

I think that it is unfortunate that Persson’s new home is merely 23,000 square feet and has only one swimming pool.

Okay, another head-scratching trend: Micro-Apartments.

In opposition to grandiose excess in design, comes this current desire for smallness. Many want Micro-Apartments—from carbon-footprint-minimizing hipsters, to efficiently-living single professionals, to prudent young couples.

Micro-Apartment (photo from EconomicPolicyJournal.com)
Micro-Apartment (photo from economicpolicyjournal.com)

As essentially one room, the architecture is definitely no mansion. The typical design is only 50 to 200 square feet. You read it correctly: not 500 square feet or 5,000 square feet.

But Fifty Square Feet!

Micro-Apartment, Venice, California, by Vertebrae Architecture
Micro-Apartment, Venice, California, by Vertebrae Architecture

This tiny single space combines living and dining areas, kitchenette and sleeping zone, which is sometimes a Murphy wall bed. Other domestic components play a game of Transformers. A dining table drops down from a wall like an ironing board. A cantilevered desktop slides out from under a window sill. On demand, full height screens slide and reconfigure to one’s daily needs.

As clever as these compact homes are, urbanists highlight many drawbacks. For example, the high density of Micro-Apartments in one city block delivers ten times more cars, congestion, consumption and waste.

What is California Dreamin’? Is it the biggest luxurious estate you can dream up? Or is luxury in the form of an ingenious shoebox condominium?

Luxury estate in Beverly Hills, California, by Martin/Poon Architects
Luxury estate in Beverly Hills, California, by Martin/Poon Architects

At Poon Design, we have designed California homes that are over 35,000 square feet comprising a dozen buildings. We have also designed studio apartments in Crenshaw for young professionals whose proud possessions are only an iPhone and a futon.

With either, who is to judge the appropriate quality of life?

Extra-large vs. petite, both proven successful by sales—these two trending philosophies represent a continuing dividing society. Imagine the homeowner with twenty Ferrari’s living in a 100-sqaure foot house. Similarly, imagine the young self-proclaimed savior of our planet trying to live at a property with three homes and three swimming pools.

Both fantasies are amusing, but tragic allegories.

© Poon Design Inc.