Tag Archives: JW MARRIOTT


September 3, 2021

Concept sketch for Escena Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Anthony Poon, Poon Design

“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.

Jeff Haber: Can you share maybe some moments where, “Wow, we didn’t really plan that, but that works beautifully.” And maybe a, “Uuh, that worked a lot better on the computer than it’s doing right now.”

Anthony Poon: You’ve touched on a sore spot. Maybe it’s just the curse of being an architect/artist, in that nothing is ever done. Nothing is ever complete. Everything always seems like it could be better.

Valley Academy of the Arts & Sciences, Los Angeles Unified School District, California, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E, Design Architect, and GKK, Architect-of-Record, photo by GKK)

Even though we’ve completed buildings of all sizes, scales, and complexities, there’s always that moment when the building’s done, everyone’s patting each other’s back, ribbon’s been cut, etc. And there’s always going to be some architect thinking, “I wish that window was moved over six inches. It would have aligned so much better with that stone joint.” Or, “The way the sunlight could have come in and just hit that reception desk—if we just used a different kind of window treatment.”

Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott at L.A. LIVE, Los Angeles, California (photo by Nabih Youssef Associates)

Maybe it’s the way we’re taught in school, always thinking it should be better. But you’re right; there are also surprises. We worked with the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott at L.A. LIVE for their mixed-use complex, that 54-story hotel condo tower. We were asked to create a security screen at the street level, separating the street from the porte cochere, where all the high-end luxury guests arrive, the athletes, the celebrities, the affluent.

We created this kind of artistic sculpture. It’s about 90 feet long with 260 steel fins 10 feet high. These fins are slightly contoured. The result creates this amazing unintended illusion of movement. As you’re walking by, the images on the other side appear to be constantly moving and changing, even though they are actually stationary.

Crystal ball (photo by Jake Willett on Unsplash)

Jeff: I would imagine there’s part of your calculations where you go, “Well, average lifespan for a client’s project  looks like it’s three decades. So what will this space look like in decade one, two, and three?” Do you guys think about that? Work your crystal ball and say, “Where do we see design going over these next few decades? And how do we make this timeless?” Or do you just say, “Let’s do this now, what we’re inspired by now. And that’s it.”

Anthony: A colleague of mine had recently called architects, called me a futurist, in that we do have to project into the future and think about how a design will be used and how it will evolve. Now no one has a crystal ball. No one knows for example, that a pandemic is on the way and restaurants might change entirely or how schools are used. But we’re here to do our best to think ahead.

Villa Sunset, Los Angeles, California, by Martin/Poon Architects (photo by Anthony Poon)

I can think of one project and its big turning point. It was a large residential estate, designed before the days of iPads. This client wanted to create a specific room off of the entrance that he called the “document signing room.” He was a businessman, an executive. We designed this beautiful walnut-clad library where he would welcome his business associates, and he would sign and store documents there.

The amazing thing is, during the course of designing this project, the iPad was created as well as technology following that, apps like DocuSign. And all of a sudden, this client realized all those files he talked about getting signed and stored could all fit on his iPad. He could have them at his fingertips, and everyone can sign things electronically. So that room that we created, that we fetishized over, that he was so excited about, no longer needed to be there. It’s amazing how within 18 months, the entire way this one client did work within his house changed.

We try our best to predict these trends. But we don’t have crystal balls. We can’t say, “What is Apple going to produce next?” All we can do is design adaptability and flexibility into our designs so that when things change, we’re able to help our clients rework and adapt to a new and evolved lifestyle.

iPad (photo by Leone Venter on Unsplash)

Jeff: Is design informed by society, or does society inform design?

Anthony: It’s both. There is a reactive aspect to design in which we’re looking at society and culture, and we’re also looking at neighborhoods and how people use their specific individual spaces. We then respond to that.

But I think it’s the other way around too. Maybe it’s the ego of the artists. There are thinkers, whether they’re poets, architects, or writers, that create ideas that are definitely informing society—suggesting ways in which society could operate and function better. I mean, what would the world be without thinkers like Steve Jobs? What would the world be without beauty, the people who imagine how things could be better, or the inventors creating things? So I think it works both ways, that architects are responsive, reflexive, and respective of what society is telling us. But we’re also looking ahead and saying, “There might be a different way.”


December 25, 2020

(photo by Hunter Kerhart)

Architecture can—and most definitely should—be artistic. Masterpieces such as both Guggenheim museums, in New York City and Bilbao, Spain, are called “works of art” by pretty much everyone. Interesting that a legendary work of art such as the Monet’s Water Lilies would never be referred to as an exquisite “work of architecture.” Some sculptures on the other hand, such as those by Richard Serra, are indeed called architectural.

Sequence, by Richard Serra, 2006, SFMOMA, San Francisco, California (photo by Anthony Poon)

Poon Design was honored to be commissioned by two global hospitality brands, the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott at the 27-acre L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles. The Ritz stands proud as one of the highest standards of quality, earning the colloquial adjective that defines sophistication and elegance, “Ritzy.”

At the existing porte cochere and main entrance to the 54-level luxury hotel and residential high-rise, our client challenged us to replace the hundred foot long fence with something innovative. Not only was the existing fence not at all Ritzy, it was more akin to a low end motel—the fence barely better than a commercial chain link screen. Failing dramatically, the 9-foot tall fence was supposed to accomplished several things, most importantly: provide security and privacy to the residents and visitors who comprise high net worth individuals, Hollywood stars, celebrated athletes, and the like.

Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott at L.A. Live, Los Angeles, California (photo from gensler.com)
(photo by Hunter Kerhart)

Alongside creating a unique privacy scrim, the Ritz-Carlton gave Poon Design additional design objectives:

– Present a notable front door for a world-renowned brand,

– Provide security to the residents and their luxury cars arriving at the porte cochere,

– While providing privacy, allow natural light to enter the porte cochere, meaning, not a solid fortress-like wall,

– Screen out the movie complex across the street which brought glaring lights, noisy customers, and trash, and finally,

– Establish a friendly face, but one that can protect the hotel from bystanders, loiterers, and paparazzi—again, but not a fortress-like wall.

(photo by Hunter Kerhart)

The assignment was a triple-threat challenge of architecture, sculpture, and art. In response, we designed an 87-foot-long statement of contour and texture. Our 260 shaped steel fins at 10’-6” tall guard the Ritz-Carlton, while projecting a distinguished curbside appeal and allowing in dappled sunlight.

Plan, elevation, and detail

As a visitor moves alongside this wall of ever-changing angled slats, her views, perception and exposure to light constantly and mysteriously change. Even a stationary car on the other side of our wall appears to be in motion.

(photos by Poon Design)

In addition to the uplights in the ground, the steel’s powder-coated silver surface captures the constantly changing colors of the theater’s flashing signs and lights from across the street, and reflects it back as an everchanging light show.

Is it architecture because it is a mere freestanding wall—an element of a building? Is it sculpture that happens to serve many programmatic functions from security to trade dress? Or is it art because it’s sublime presence surpasses the base purpose of being just a piece of architecture?

A future design to come to enhance the streetscape at the Ritz-Carlton, by Poon Design


May 22, 2020

Jurupa K-8 School, Jurupa Unified School District, Riverside, California, by Anthony Poon (w/ A4E)

I am pleased to be a guest on Christopher Kai’s podcast, The Gifters: Your Story is a Gift to the World (episode 209). As a global speaker, author, and executive coach, Mr. Kai speaks to Fortune 100 companies, from Google to New York Life, from American Express to Merrill Lynch. His podcast “shares inspiring stories from captivating entrepreneurs and extraordinary individuals who are changing the world.” Excerpts below.

Christopher Kai (photo from bookingworldspeakers.com)

Christopher Kai: Our guest today is Anthony Poon. He’s an architect and musician and author and an artist. Anthony, thanks so much for being here, where your story is a gift to the world. I’ve met a lot of people in my life, but I’ve never met a guy who’s a musician, author, artist, and architect. How do you have all these really cool interests? What started it all? How old were you when you had an inkling of some of your talents?

Anthony Poon: It started with music. In my mind, all of these four things are connected. My goal at an early age was to be a concert pianist. I trained and I practiced. As I got older, I started to think more practically about a career, and I’ve always enjoyed design and architecture.

There was a point of my life where I had to pick one path or the other. I was looking at two grad school applications, Juilliard for music vs. Harvard for architecture. I think the practicality of my Asian parents had me think, well, I better be an architect, because the odds are better for me to support myself, than being a classical pianist.

Me at St. Paul’s, Rancho Palos Verdes, California (photo by Grant Bozigian)

I chose architecture. The great thing is that running a design company and being an entrepreneur still gives me the freedom to play piano, to write music, to teach, and even perform a little. I don’t think it would have worked the other way around where I am a concert pianist and trying to operate an architecture office.

The overlap in all of it is that my work requires an audience, whether I’m playing music for myself, for a small group, or for a large venue. Architecture too requires an audience. It requires visitors and users. When I author a book, I’m counting on there being a reader. When I do my mixed-media art, it also requires an audience. They are all forms of communication for me to share stories with others.

Alleyway, 30” x 42”, March 10, 2019, by Anthony Poon

Christopher: That’s inspiring. My business is based in L.A., but right now I’m currently in Miami, and one of the most inspiring architects here is a woman named Zaha Hadid. For you, who inspires you as an architect, and what can we learn as entrepreneurs? Primarily our audience are entrepreneurs, but I’m all about how we can learn from different people and different professions. Who’s one architect that you admire, and what’s one thing that you feel that you’ve learned as an architect that you can perhaps share with our listeners?

Anthony: The architect that comes to mind is Peter Zumthor. He is a Swiss architect. He’s currently designing the new controversial Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I admire him because he has crafted his role as an artist within the profession of architecture. He stays focused on what his philosophy is, and chooses only a few special projects every couple of years to work on—and therefore giving the projects his most inspired ideas. So Peter Zumthor, for those who don’t know—his work is beautiful. It’s elemental, timeless, and shows a lot of ideas around minimalism, abstraction, and materiality.

Proposed Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California, by Peter Zumthor (rendering from LA Times)
Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine Concept, University of California San Diego, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, rendering by Douglas Jamieson)

Christopher: Do you feel some of your work is similar to that in terms of minimalistic and quality? What are some things that you’ve gleaned from him in your own practice as an architect?

Anthony: Our practice is a different. I think Zumthor can do what he does because he works in a small village in Switzerland. We work in the very vibrant communities of Southern California. Every project we take on is unique, and our project types are diverse. We do residential, commercial, retail, and restaurants. We also do schools and religious projects. Quite a broad mix. We think of all of our projects as telling a story, the story of the client, the client’s successes, maybe battle scars even, their vision for the company, or for an educational institution. This way our projects are full of content, material, and texture. Some make reference to history, some reference maybe a client’s most favorite piece of music or favorite poem. Our portfolio and the output is quite diverse, but intentionally so. (Stay tuned for part 2.)

© Poon Design Inc.