Tag Archives: TWOPART


May 25, 2018

Known as Muscle Beach: his steroid-induced presence is both impressive and so what. (photo by Anthony Poon)

Over two decades ago, I arrived into a Los Angeles summer. Between my job at a Melrose studio working on a building in Zurich, and designing one of my first independent projects, a café  in West Los Angeles, I grasped tightly my 35 mm Nikon FE2, never putting it down. This summer was an authentic and faithful period of history that preceded iPhones and the obsessive posting of self-indulgent photos.

Like many amateur photographers, I shot with a single lens reflex camera loaded with black and white Kodak Plus-X 125 film. Each outing was strictly limited to 32 photos. Sorry, no overshooting and over curation, and no dishonest post-production filters and tools of laziness. None of this.

Rather, simply see something with your eyes, react quickly and shoot once, maybe twice. And move on with your existence.

I apprehended my blistering Southern California summer in dozens of shots—nothing fancy, just honing in on life as it passed in front of me. Below, I introduce you to three chapters: Venice Beach, Downtown and Melrose Avenue. (All photographs by Anthony Poon. Past gallery exhibitions at TwoPart, Los Angeles, California, and Gund Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.)



above left: The exhuberance of a street performer barely noticed by a relaxing crowd, his reluctant audience. The ocean wind blasts the background palms as the skater stays deftly afloat.

above center: The formality and discomfort of a policeman’s black wool outfit of decorum is shunned by a beach goer’s short shorts and athletic socks pulled up too high.

above right: The perplexed listener scratches her head as the accommodating fortune teller predicts, “Someone special will be entering your life very soon.” The standard-issue, muscle-bound bloke has no concerns in the world.

The card shark deceives his unknowing victim taking all his hard earned cash. The worldly young girl, years beyond her age, has figured out the scam.



The predictable striped ties against the background of striped architecture.

above left: The city is about motion, going places, leaving places, never sitting still. The car, the vessel of choice. The freeway, the path of choice.

above right: Coming and going, with no place in particular to depart or to land.

White shirts, dark ties, hands on waist—the professionals anxiously watch their lunch time getaway sadly tick away. Their windowless, beige cubicles await.

World-famous burgers consumed with no guilt at the Original Tommy’s.



An aggressive bike and two club chicks ready to be acknowledged for their non-conformance.

above left: The folksy guitarist warms up for his impromptu show and he calls to himself, “Break a leg!”

above center: A California cowboy in dark black cowboy garb noticed by a porcelain Asian in a summer dress and roman sandals.

above right: It’s okay. Don’t lose your head.

Kerouac-inspired nomad On the Road muses: Will I ever be as free as my bold bird friend?


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.

© Poon Design Inc.