Tag Archives: PROBLEM SOLVING

THE GIFTERS PODCAST, PART 2 OF 2: PROBLEM SOLVING, PRESENTATION, AND PUBLICATIONS

September 25, 2020

Steampunk-inspired sketch by Anthony Poon

Please enjoy more excerpts from Christopher Kai’s podcast series with me, The Gifters: Your Story is a Gift to the World. (episode 209). Excerpts from part one are here.

Christopher Kai: If you do not share your voice, your voice won’t be heard, and if your voice isn’t heard, you’re never really going to do what you say you want to do. What do you think architects know that other people might not, relative to the thinking process?

My sold out panel discussion on architecture and music at the Wende Museum with Culver City Mayor, Thomas Small, and architects, Stephen Ehrlich, Whitney Sanders, and Craig Webb from Gehry Partners. I performed Brahm’s Intermezzo in A, Opus 118, No. 2. (photo by Betsy Staes)

Anthony Poon: I think of two things. The first is architects are trained to be problem solvers. They’re trained to examine a broad number of topics all at one time, and look for solutions and options, prototype and test, and do a lot of what the business world is calling Design Thinking. It’s all a skill set that can apply to cooking a meal in your kitchen, to designing a library, to even raising children.

The other thing in architecture—as you talk about communication and presentation—is that though a lot of architects are talented, and though everyone has great ideas in their head, the key part is to be able to tell these stories, to present a narrative. You have to make a convincing presentation to the client, whether it is a husband and wife, board president of a museum, or decision makers at the university. You have to be able to communicate your ideas, and you have to do it convincingly. You have to tell them the why, how it’s important to them, and what the value is that they get out of your design ideas. If you don’t do this well, then you’re just a lonely poet sitting in your bedroom, jotting things down on a private piece of paper, but not getting your ideas out there.

Christopher: You get to create an idea, put it on paper, and then literally see it coming to fruition in an actual building. Tell us a little bit about your book because you’re also an author as well.

Sticks and Stones / Steel and Glass: One Architect’s Journey, by Anthony Poon (photo by Anthony Poon)

Anthony: I have two books published and one in the works. The book that came out three years ago is called Sticks and Stones / Steel and Glass: One Architect’s Journey. It’s a book that was inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. If you know that book, he reveals the behind-the-scenes stories of running restaurants and the food service industry. I took that model giving a behind-the-scenes look at the architecture world. My book is part autobiographical, part behind the scenes, part rants and raves, and part essays.

The second book is coming out next month on Amazon, called Live Learn Eat. It’s edited by the acclaimed author, Michael Webb, who spearheaded this project. It is a large format book on our architectural work at Poon Design Inc., and there are three chapters. Live presents our ideas about affordable and attainable housing. Learn is a chapter on our work in the education world—designing schools, K through 12 and preschools too. And the final chapter Eat, are our projects in hospitality, bars, restaurants. Together, it’s kind of a triple threat book.

Live Learn Eat: Architecture by Anthony Poon, edited by Michael Webb (photo by Anthony Poon)

Lastly, my third book, in the works, is a fictional book. I’m calling it an ‘architectural thriller’ in which several architects compete for a famous project in San Francisco: the conversion of Alcatraz Island into a new world museum. It’s a book of intrigue, a book of murder—talks about ego and arrogance, vanity and legacy, passion and desire. Architects start to mysteriously die off during the design competition. A John Grisham-type of thriller meets Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead.

The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand (photo by Anthony Poon)

Christopher: Anthony, thanks so much for being on The Gifters podcast. If you want to learn from a person that has such an eclectic and diverse palette of skillsets, definitely check out Anthony Poon.

PODCAST PART 1: THE ART WITHIN MUSIC AND ARCHITECTURE

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)
© Poon Design Inc.