Tag Archives: journey


December 15, 2017

Digital intervention by MMTRA into the Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria, by Peter Zumthor (photo from behance.com)

I have written about a number of things that are in essence, big pains in the butt (pains, city process and bad clients, just to name a few). Recently, I asked two colleagues, Christine Fang  and Ji Ahn, who practice mindfulness and meditation: What do you do with the discomforts of life? I requested of them to provide me a peek into their training.

They tossed back some words: adventure, commit and experience—and sit and be curious. But somewhere along this pattern of words, Chris and Ji are aware that discomfort will inevitably rear its ugly head.

Spirituality and contemplation at Knight Rise, Nancy and Art Schwalm Sculpture Garden, Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, Arizona, by James Turrell (photo by Sean Deckert)

Chris suggests, “I think I might be a masochist on some level. I love carving out new paths, going where no one else has gone before. But new paths mean discomfort. It’s all new terrain, whether something you’re confronting in the physical world, or in your mind. And you’re fighting the self-created inertia that makes you want to turn the other direction. New terrain means learning new things, and most certainly, making mistakes! As you keep at the new terrain, new becomes routine. Then when bored, the mind goes searching again for new terrain.”

Architecture framing nature, at a Buddhist Temple, Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia (photo by Anthony Poon)

Similarly, Ji responds, “Growing up, I was attracted to unknown paths and adventure. Not knowing the end result gave me the space to be creative and an opportunity to imagine new possibilities. Being in this space of solitude, the exploration opens me up to be curious and to sit with discomfort that visits me in the process. Changing the relationship to our discomfort allows us to explore and grow. Within discomfort, we might be able to find joy and serenity.”

The elegant dialogue between building and landscape, at the Woodland Cemetery, Stockholm, by Erik Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz (photo by Landezine)

As the architect, my simple understanding: Through mindfulness and meditation, one creates space and stillness. Design-wise, what is this architecture that can support the simple tenet, “sit and be curious”? Chris and Ji suggest any of these possibilities as starting points.

  • A space of stillness found when experiencing nature, or
  • An area in one’s home to be safe and quiet, to reflect, or
  • A place dedicated to meditation.
Meditation Retreat House, Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia (photos by Anthony Poon)

Though not my thesis for projects (and though I only know of mindfulness as a visitor), my work finds a common ground with some of my two colleagues’ thinking.

twoPart café, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (photos by Anthony Poon)

At twoPart café, my first public design from 1992, the simplicity of the architecture delivered a space of adaptability. More so, it was intentionally incomplete. Like a blank canvas with only a few brush strokes to motivate a visitor, twoPart enabled human development. Customers sought to advance their current affairs—whether reconciling with a loved one, pursuing that long sought after graduate degree, or finally finishing the Hollywood script.

Simplicity in elemental forms and materials, at the Thermal Vals, Braubunden, Switzerland, by Peter Zumthor (photo by Fernando Guerra)

Though Mozart claimed that music should always be beautiful, I concur with Beethoven that music can do a lot more than simply be pretty. I believe music can be heroic or moody, ominous or bold, shocking or even off beat.

For architecture, spaces don’t have to always be pleasing, comfortable, serene or joyful, but whatever form architecture takes, the design supports people on their journeys.


December 4, 2015

View of Los Angeles from my Hollywood Hills house

In designing a house for myself, the process became a diary of sorts. This design journey documented the chapters of my life.

In being my own client and in never actually implementing any construction, each proposed design captured my evolution over the years—from single, young couple, adulthood, married life, baby, to two children. All six design studies below (there are dozens more) addressed domesticity, views of the city, designing for a steep hill, adaptability, and new aesthetic ground.

Over fifteen years ago, I purchased a 1957 tear down in the Hollywood Hills, in an enclave of exclusive homes known as the Bird Streets. The following designs track my existence and evolution.

1998. Called the “Wrapping House,” this first scheme explored my joy of entertaining. The iconic loft combined the living room, dining room, kitchen, and other public functions into one space. A continuous walnut plank floor/wall/ceiling wrapped this great room.

The Wrapping House
The Wrapping House

2000. Then arrived a design entitled the “Glass Courtyard House.” My interest in hosting extended to the outdoors. A sizable courtyard was the canvas for socializing under the stars. A perimeter of glowing rooms embraced three sides of the exterior space. The open side faced the sparkling city lights below.

The Glass Courtyard House
The Glass Courtyard House

2002. I sought some privacy as I aged, wanting a distinct separation between the general living areas vs. the bedrooms. As I matured, I also chose not to brazenly demolish my Mid-Century house. With a parasitic idea called the “Floating Addition,” I created a polycarbonate and steel structure of bedrooms that hovered over the existing building.

The Floating Addition
The Floating Addition

2004. Furthering this notion that I desired both a public social life and a private personal life, the “Public/Private House” explored a home comprised of two abstract shapes. The glass and aluminum public building contained the kitchen, dining room, family room, and living room. The wood clad private building had the bedrooms, bathrooms and art studio. The simplicity of forms signified an agenda to simplify my increasingly busy life.

The Public/Private House
The Public/Private House

2005. Then came a baby. Two juxtaposed halves composed this “Adult/Child House”: sophisticated and serious for adults vs. whimsical and animated for the child. Luxurious with marble, stainless steel, and dark exotic woods, the adult half was intentionally strict. Playful with exposed ducts, the child half employed novel materials like colored rubber, bright acrylics, and translucent resins.

The Adult/Child House
The Adult/Child House

2012. With children, my growing family needed a bigger home, both inside and outside. Simply called “The Point,” I created a geometric house, with a double height rumpus room pointing towards downtown. With my daughters needing an exterior area to play, the rooftop amphitheater provided a zone for the young to imagine, with the surrounding tree tops as audience.

The Point
The Point

As in life, the creative process is not a closed loop—never a sentence with a period. Design and life are works in progress. They are open-ended acts. Ralph Waldo Emerson acknowledged, “Because the soul is progressive, it never quite repeats itself, but in every act attempts the production of a new and fairer whole.”

2015. None of the above designs were implemented. I sold my property to a developer who has his own plans for a dream estate. In turn, I purchased yet another old house on yet another hillside property. Also with nice views. My design journey starts again.


April 18, 2015

Tools from Anthony Poon’s art studio

Architecture is not a painting because it is three-dimensional. Architecture is not sculpture, because it is more than an object that you engage by walking around, at an imaginary perimeter. Akin to installation and experiential art if it was permanent, architecture is a space and a place that one moves through in time—maybe once, maybe over and over again.

Architecture is a journey and a work of art that exists to attract and serve. Architecture has beauty, has form, and has function.

University Library, American University in Cairo, New Cairo, Egypt, by Anthony Poon (while w/ HHPA)
University Library, American University in Cairo, New Cairo, Egypt, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA)

In its making, architecture can be created slowly and methodically like a surgeon working on a painstakingly complex procedure. Architecture can be created strategically, like a general preparing for a battle. Or architecture can be created impromptu and improvisationally like a jazz musician sitting down as his keyboard playing a tune of which he has no idea where it began and where it will go.

Architecture is about persistence, courage, optimism, and passion, and perhaps, a bit of insanity. What other field is the intersection of art, science, business, and even human survival? What other field provides emotional, spiritual and intellectual responses, as well as put a roof over our heads?

W-V Mixed Use Project, Manhattan Beach, by Poon Design, photo by Gregg Segal
W-V Mixed Use Project, Manhattan Beach, by Poon Design (photo by Gregg Segal)

We need places to live, and we want these places to be warm and welcoming. We need places to go to work, and we want these places to be comfortable and efficient. We need schools, and we want these places to be inspiring and safe. Our neighborhoods need places to gather and socialize, and we want these places to be democratic and energized. Our communities need churches to worship in, and we want these places to be aspirational and uplifting. Our businesses need places to thrive and grow, and we want these places to be strategic and informed. Our rulers need places to create and debate policies, and we want these places to be powerful and influential.

Architecture is all that. And more.

© Poon Design Inc.