Tag Archives: PODCAST


July 2, 2021

Whitefish River Run, Montana, by Poon Design (rendering by Mike Amaya)

“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, episode #1030.

Podcast: No Bed of Roses, by Jeff Haber

Jeff Haber: Hey there, everyone, from beautiful Fort Collins, Colorado, halfway between Cheyenne in Denver and 5,003 feet above sea level. The dictionary defines architect as a person who designs buildings, and in many cases also supervises their construction. That definition is fine, but barely scratches the surface as you’ll learn from today’s guest.

Anthony Poon is an award-winning American classical pianist, mixed-media artist, published author, interior designer, guest lecturer, and oh, yeah, he’s an architect—a really talented one.

Anthony, let’s talk about the pandemic: You work primarily in California, or do you work in other areas as well?

Anthony Poon: Primarily California, but we get our fingers into other locations. I’m also licensed in Virginia and Montana. We’ve also done a lot of work in the Chicago area, and we’ve designed projects as far as Saudi Arabia.

Buddhist Pavilion, Natural Bridge, Virginia, by Poon Design (photo by Mark Ballogg)

Jeff: How much of an impact has the pandemic had on you currently? And how much of an impact will it have on the way you now go through your design process? How does this make you approach communal spaces?

Anthony: A lot of things that we responded to and changed due to the pandemic—well, a lot of these ideas will stay in place. For example, people have learned that their company teams can work remotely and still be effective. Or, the new views on hygiene and cleanliness should apply into the future, pandemic or not, i.e.: for a school, restaurant, retail, or going into any public space.

Berkeley Hall School Master Plan, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design

I think of one of our clients, a development office in Beverly Hills. We’re asked to redesign their office because they now realize they don’t need to have 100% of their staff back in person. We are looking at a “hotel concept” and micro-offices where there are multiple areas that are shared and used at different points of the day. The office can be smaller in square footage, but still support the same size company or even bigger. Remote connections will stay around, but people will certainly come back together in person and collaborate. Human contact is so important. There’s also so many things we’re learning about mechanical systems, ventilation, and air conditioning. It was a crash course for everyone this last year. We’re not going to throw away that knowledge.

Chaya Downtown, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design (photo by Gregg Segal)

Jeff: What about the use of outdoor space? Is there anything you’re kind of ruminating on?

Anthony: When we talk about outdoor space, I’m thinking two things. One is the smaller scale spaces like that of a restaurant patio. And the other is the concept of public space. I’m talking streets, parks, communal spaces, and plazas.

Generally in California, you’re only allowed outdoor space that’s about half of your interior dining room. Well, that’s obviously changed because of Covid. New ordinances will be created to allow restaurants to keep doing what they are currently doing: have a permanent large outdoor patio. And it can’t be just temporary chairs and tables thrown up. The patio should include ideas like we did at Chaya Downtown where the outdoor dining is as thoroughly designed and detailed as the interior.

Traffic (photo by Tommy on Unsplash)

Now shifting to the other thing I said, public space. We need to start thinking about cities, say San Francisco or New York. People wonder, are they are coming back at the same density? How do you walk down the street when there’s hundreds of people? Who knows what’s going to happen in terms of distancing? So we need to think about street life and our public spaces, our parks. Certain communities closed down parts of streets for distanced foot traffic. Take Culver City, for example. There’s so much more outdoor dining downtown and public space. They city closed down certain traffic lanes to allow for that to happen. It’s very European, and no one is complaining about traffic and parking. We all still know how to get there, how to get to parking. Point is, we don’t have to design cities, particularly Los Angeles, to be about the car and this automobile street. We should think about the public spaces, pedestrians, where you can enjoy outdoor spaces.

Three-legged stool (photo from etsy.com)

Jeff: Heresy! What this man is saying for the car capital.

Anthony: Blasphemy!

Jeff: It’s not just designing. There’s the business of design. On a weighted basis, is it 50/50 between the creative flow and then client facing and all the ops that you have to deal with? What is that ratio, do you think?

Anthony: First, I would redefine it as a three-legged stool. The ratio is 1/3, 1/3, 1/3.

The first leg is the creative.

Anthony Poon’s mixed-media art in progress (photo by Anthony Poon)

The second is the logistics of science and engineering—and things like gravity. So you’ve created a beautiful project, but you still need to make sure it stands up, you still need to figure out the thickness of those concrete walls, and how much steel is being used. You need to coordinate with your structural engineer to make sure it all works.

Logistics of building (photo by Shivendu Shukla on Unsplash)

Now the last third is that of a business, that of an entrepreneur and a business owner. We have to go out there and we have to get work. We have to sign contracts. There are insurance policies. There are things to review with lawyers. There’s billing and making sure you get paid so that you can pay rent salaries. So it is a

Business: hitting the pavement (photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash)

Jeff: For any young person considering a career in architecture, any pro tips?
Anthony: Realize that you’re going into architecture for tremendous artistic rewards—that it’s an incredible profession because it is a career based around being creative. But I say ‘artistic rewards’ only because the financial rewards are challenging. It’s a roller coaster ride. You don’t often hear of architects being rich and famous, earning salaries of investment bankers and attorneys. And that’s okay. People go into architecture because it is hard and it is creative, not because they’re looking to be rich and famous.


March 8, 2019

Escena Residence I-3, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Chris Miller)

Continuing with my interview for Josh Cooperman’s podcast, Convo By Design, we discussed how affordable Modern homes were created for the general home buying audience. With 225 built (and sold) homes by Poon Design within only the past few years, I think I know what I am talking about.

Excerpts below. YouTube clip here. Audio podcast here. Also, please read this recent feature by Michael Webb, Anthony Poon Delivers Modernism to Tract Housing.

Residences at Alta Verde Escena, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo from Google Earth)
Linea Residence T, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design and Andrew Adler (photo by Hunter Kerhart)

Josh Cooperman: What is “Modern for the Masses”? Modern is an idea that you have embraced wholeheartedly and the idea of creating it for the masses is simply a . . . How do you jive those two and what’s the idea behind it?

Escena Garden Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design and Interior Illusions (photo by Lance Gerber)

Anthony Poon: Our thesis, Modern for the Masses came out of a study of a lot of homes in LA—the ones that we see in the magazines, the glossy pictures, the websites, the homes that we love in the Hollywood Hills that sell for 10 million dollars. The challenge was this: How can we create these beautiful modern homes for a fraction of the price? Build them at production level, a mass production level, and sell them.

We teamed with a developer/designer, Andrew Adler, who found distressed properties in Palm Springs. We designed a few prototypes, very Modern, not at all what you see in tract housing. Not the cheap Spanish style homes with the small windows, the fat trim, the fake tile roofs, and the wedding cake décor.

Our Modern homes are very strictly Modern. Lots of glass, open space, very sleek. To date, in the last four years, we’ve completed over 200 homes. And they’ve all been built, they’re all sold, they’ve been published extensively, and we’ve been awarded over two dozen national and regional design awards. It’s a program that has not been accomplished, as far as I know, by any other architecture studio other than Mid-Century Modern, and we’re talking about going back over 60 years.

Linea Residence G, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design and Andrew Adler (photo by James Butchart)


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

Josh: Your theory has been tested and it appears to have passed. Why?

Anthony: Because there is a demographic out there that has not been served. These tract housing companies that build communities of 100 homes—they rubber stamp these homes out. They’re not selling. People aren’t interested in these homes.

Our imagined home buyer is someone that wants the modern lifestyle, someone that believes in technology, iPhone, iPad, completely connected all the time. Also, someone who has a concern for sustainability, for being green. Those three things were critical to us and of course, all of these things needed to be done on a budget that was about one-fourth what you would see most homes in California being built for. That was our perfect storm. Our homes have outsold all competing developers in Palm Springs because we have a product that everyone’s been dying for.

Escena Arcadia Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Lance Gerber)
Escena Arcadia Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Lance Gerber)

Josh: There has to be some things that are limited or cut out. There has to be. What is it? What is being removed?

Anthony: There is nothing being removed. In fact, what we’re adding is a certain kind of value that makes a home better and happens to save money in construction dollars. I wouldn’t say we’re cutting or reducing anything. It’s just the way we’re rethinking architecture.

For a typical traditional house in Beverly Hills, there’s the entry, there’s the foyer, the hallway, the powder room, the niches. What do we need all that for? It’s not even what people want, and it’s what’s driving up construction costs, like framing 20 different ceilings heights throughout a house.

Escena Panorama Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design and Interior Illusions (photo by Lance Gerber)
Linea Residence T, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design, Andrew Adler and Interior Illusions (photo by Hunter Kerhart)

Josh: In fact, you’re just using what you have for the greatest effect.

Anthony: It’s similar to the approach that Minimal art can have a few brush strokes and still be dramatic and impactful for the composition. In that way, you could say that we’ve cut out pieces of architecture. I’m saying we actually added to the essence of a house.

Coral Mountain Residence Z, La Quinta, California, by Poon Design (photo by George Guttenberg)

Josh: The concept of the traditional tract home—I’m wondering why it doesn’t work. What is it going to take for your idea to expand to a general market?

Anthony: I think tract housing is failing because these companies are large. They’re money-driven. They’re stuck in old ideas. It takes a lot to turn a company around and look towards the future.

I think of the example of Tower Records. If you recall, a decade ago, MP3 players came out, iPods. Tower Records claimed that it was just a fad that they would hold onto their LPs and their albums. And look what happened to them. Tower Records is gone. iTunes has taken over the world.

So, these tract home companies that we compete with and that we beat out month to month, they’re stuck in these old ideas, these weird big Mediterranean homes, these things I call ‘Taco Bell Homes’—no one wants them anymore.

The community of Alta Verde Escena, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Anthony Poon)


December 14, 2018

Golf resort hotel villa, California, by Poon Design (rendering by Mike Amaya)

Recently, I had the pleasure of being interviewed on Josh Cooperman’s podcast, Convo By Design. We talked about architecture, art, music, life, and all the things that encompass our creative existence. This is an excerpt.

YouTube clip here. Audio podcast here.

Golf resort hotel villa, California, by Poon Design (photo by Poon Design)

Josh Cooperman: I had the chance to sit with Anthony Poon: author, musician, speaker, artist, teacher, award-winning architect and interior designer. Poon received his bachelor of arts from Berkeley and his master of architecture from Harvard. We talked about architecture, but we also discussed music and art, compared and contrasted these disciplines, and explored ways to incorporate new ideas into traditional applications using nontraditional methods.

I talk to a lot of creative types, and the people that I speak to are really masters of what they do, be it architecture, design, chefs, set decorators, musicians. The point is that everyone I talk to has a creative specialty, but very few have all of them at the same time like you do. So explain this to me. Artist, musician, architect—obviously you’re an architect by trade, but do you enjoy all of these creative pursuits the same?

With Josh Cooperman at the Pacific Design Center, West Hollywood, California (photo by Christine Anderson)

Anthony Poon: I enjoy all of them. I enjoy them all differently and in similar ways. My passion has always been music and that’s led me to many other things, generating my interests in art, painting, mixed media, and writing too, having recently published my first book.

Josh: Isn’t that a little selfish, taking all of the arts for yourself? Doing everything? Most people can only do one at a time.

Skull Painting, 44” x 52”, by Anthony Poon (2018)

Anthony: Well, it is selfish in that it makes me happy. But all of these art forms do require an audience. And I am grateful to have the opportunity to share.

Josh: I have a theory that you have an artistic side and then you have an educational side. By joining the two, you can figure out how to do what you’re trying to do in a systematic way. That you’re limiting the cost of improvisation.

Anthony: I think the thing is this: In architecture and in most arts, there are two components. Architecture has the problem solving component, where you have to figure out the square footage, you have to figure out for the client what the program is, how many bedrooms or how many seats in a restaurant. You have the problem solving of construction costs, of city codes and getting building permits.

Anthony Poon in Architects in Concert, Santa Monica, California (2012)

On the other hand, completely different, you have the level of artistry, of creativity. Take classical music. Part of the work is learning all the notes on the page. A classical musician can spend years learning one piece, trying to master the flurry of 10,000 notes that fly by in three minutes. That’s not music though. That’s just getting the notes right. After you get to that point, you then have to make it sound beautiful. You then have to add your interpretation, the lyrical aspect that makes it a work of art.

I go back and forth between the problem solving and the pragmatic vs. the poetic and aspirational sides. A building has to be part science in that it can’t fall down. It has to withstand rain. It has to put a roof over your head. But it has to be a little more enlightening than just a structure. It has to be beautiful. It has to make you have a reason to get up every day and go to work, and go to this office building. Or on the weekend, go to the park or go to the museum.

Jungsuck Library, Inha University, Inchon, Korea, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA)
Jungsuck Library, Inha University, Inchon, Korea, by Anthony Poon (w/ HHPA, photo by HHPA)

Josh: As you look at your work now, what would you like it to be in 10 or 20 years from now? What is the short term legacy value of what you’re doing right now?

Anthony: The legacy is that, I hope, that my explorations become an inspiration for someone else. I see any artistic endeavor as a constantly moving target, as an evolution, and we’re all only contributing one small step to this evolution. I may work my whole career and only master three buildings that I actually think are worthwhile. Similarly to a musician who says, “Yeah, I’ve composed 500 pieces, but I actually only think these few are great.”

I hope those few pieces that I’ve created are enough for someone to see one day, and it inspires them to move their art process to another level, in another direction, and that’s progress—moving forward. That’s what I call civilization. And that’s what I hope to do.

I gathered 66 stuffed animals from my children, and sewed them onto an Ikea chair. Inspired by the Campana brothers. (photo by Anthony Poon)
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