Tag Archives: MID-CENTURY MODERN

#105: PODCAST: DESIGN INFLUENCER GROUP AND THE NEW RULES OF DESIGN & ARCHITECTURE

August 23, 2019

Linea Residence L, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by James Butchart)

I was honored to be an inaugural member of Josh Cooperman’s Design Influencer Group, or better yet, “DIG.” As part of the Convo By Design’s platform, DIG was launched to examine, “industry trends and information not just about design, but about the business of design . . . design creatives are being asked to do more, for less.” Cooperman introduces, “The Design Influencer Group is a forum for a select group of design trade professionals to discuss these industry issues and design ideas that are shaping our design community here in Southern California.”

Josh Cooperman: What are the new trends of design and architecture?

Anthony Poon: We’re here today having a round table discussion with landscape designers, architects, interior designers, people of all sorts. The trend is that there are no boundaries, that people who are architects are also furniture designers. They’re also landscape architects. Interior designers are designing textiles and plumbing fixtures. It’s all one big blur of a movement of creativity.

Josh: What are the new rules?

Anthony: I think the exciting thing is that there are no rules. In the old school days, architects were well-defined, and so too were landscape designers, urban planners and furniture makers. The fact that there are no rules is what makes us all want to do what we do. It’s a form of creative entrepreneurship—everyone coming up with ideas and making it work. Learning as you go.

Thematic painting by Shag

Josh: With change comes casualties?

Anthony: I’m going to propose a trend that is the opposite of what some think is trendy. I call it, “The Death of Mid-Century Modern.” Sure, Mid-Century Modernism is popular. We all know it’s exciting; it’s everywhere. And I just came back from speaking at Modernism Week in Palm Springs.

My trouble with Mid-Century Modernism is that it’s become not just a fad, but a predictable formula. People are collecting Mid-Century Modern design as if they’re painting by numbers. These fans purchase that perfect pottery, the Eames chair, the avocado green paint, etc. We all know the elements that make up the beautiful Mid-Century composition, but if you’re just putting the pieces together like a mindless formula, like painting by numbers, then all you’ve got is a generic composition of random pieces that don’t speak to your personality.

Design should be individual, should be unique. It should tell a story about who you are. Mid-Century Modern is no different than saying you want an Elizabethan home, or that you want a Grecian temple, or any of these past historical theme parks. It’s not design. It’s not creativity, and I am getting tired of seeing these predictable clichés. No one should want to live in a museum of Mid-Century cliches.

Concept sketch for the Aztec Center Student Union, San Diego State University, California, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA)

Josh: What’s next in design?

Anthony: I think what’s next should not be driven by styles, clichés and formulas. It should be driven by the elemental qualities of architecture. Elemental items—we’re talking about things like indoor/outdoor connection. We’re talking about proportions, air, light, scale, composition. These are the things that are “what’s next.” “Next” should not be a discussion of a trendy shade of green paint, but rather the crafting of a spatial experience, a creative journey.

My footage on YouTube here. My podcast segment on iTunes starts at 43:52.

Study model for the Aztec Center Student Union, San Diego State University, California, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA)

#87: GROWING UP IN ARCHITECTURE

August 10, 2018

Mills High School, Millbrae, California (photo from carducciassociates.com)

A 1960s cover of Time magazine featured my high school as a building that could be assembled and disassembled with a screwdriver. Though not literally so, the architects of Mills High School made a bold assertion relating an entire school campus as a simple kit-of-parts. Before the recent marketing ploys of prefab homes, this school that I attended comprised prefabricated parts that could be put together like a child’s toy.

Though the high school was comprised of nothing more than several dull institutional buildings, I wonder if the innovative thinking in the school’s design influenced how I experienced architecture.

Eichler home, Burlingame, California (photo from freshome.com)

During these teen years, my family resided in Burlingame, a quiet suburban community a few miles south of San Francisco. Though initially appearing to be not much more than some average tract homes, Burlingame had an architectural legacy unknown to general home buyers. Our little neighborhood contained one of the largest collections of Mid-Century Modern homes by illustrious developer-builder, Joseph Eichler. Over 100 homes.

Eichler homes, Burlingame, California (photos by Anthony Poon)

The streets where I rode my bike, where I learned to drive, and where I played ball, were lined with the iconic architecture of the period. The design vocabulary of clean lines is commonplace now, but back then, it was ground breaking. Eichler explored indoor-outdoor spaces, abundance of natural light, large walls of glass, thin roof lines, open floor plans, carports, and an overall composition of efficiency and elegance.

How did growing up in two such impactful architectural environments influence my future?

East West Bank, Chinatown, San Francisco, California (photo by Anthony Poon)

Prior to living in Burlingame, the urban fabric of San Francisco was home, from the steep streets and Victorian homes of Russian Hill to the patina and history of Chinatown, from a job at a music studio in the Tenderloin of the then decaying Mission District to the deeply fogged-in hillside of South City, and from the hustle bustle glamor of Union Square to the comic book stores of North Beach. This was all an architectural sonata of intensity, risk and exploration.

Hills of San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge in background, view from Coit Tower, California (photo by Anthony Poon)

I suspect that if I attended a generic suburban high school and not a gutsy innovative architectural work, that if my teen experiences were contained in the Taco-Bell-style tract homes of California and not a community of production homes from one of history’s eminent Mid-Century Modern architects, and that if my childhood was in a city that lacked texture, adventures and delight, I would not be the architect I am today. I believe that somehow the creative and random tapestry of various conditions threaded into my head, and decades later, seeped out of my architectural hands.

© Poon Design Inc.