Born in Indonesia, raised in Singapore, and now residing in Los Angeles, Amanda Gunawan is a twenty-nine-year-old architectural designer with her own firm and visions for creating beautiful work and living spaces for her many clients. We sat down and talked with Gunawan to learn a little more about this fascinating young entrepreneur who has to work harder and more intentionally to be heard in an industry comprised mostly of Caucasian men.
1. Hi, Amanda! Thanks for taking some time to chat with us today.
You’re welcome! I’m happy to be here and to discuss my work.
2. Let’s start at the beginning. What got you interested in a profession that is more typically thought of as a “man’s field of work?”
Well, I’ve wanted to be a real estate developer since about the age of eight. I loved spaces, but even more importantly, I wanted to be the one designing them. I knew I wanted to do architecture because I’m a problem solver by nature. The best and most natural way for me to communicate is visual. So I process information from the external world, analyze it into systems, and create desired spaces for my clients. I knew that I had to be my own client to get the creative freedom I wanted, hence the real estate developer dream.
3. You were raised in Singapore but now reside in LA, where you’ve started your firm, correct?
Yes, that’s right. My partner, Joel Wong, and I started OWIU Design to create a firm that encompasses the philosophies we believe in and preach every day. We are all about thoughtful design, complemented with careful craftmanship through a part-to-whole process. This means that we start our ideas from a source and then evolve it slowly in a controlled manner to create something dense and complex but not out of control or overly complicated. We began Inflexion Builds to have more control over the construction process.
4. With so many architectural firms out there, what sets yours apart?
Good question! I have the logic and practicality of a developer, but I dream like an architect. People often say the two occupations are antagonistic, but that depends on how you view the glass—half empty or half full. It simply means I can put myself in the shoes of a client, wanting to save as much money as possible, but still tap into the client’s emotional side and understand his or her unique desires for the space.
5. Can you share some of your unique challenges in the architectural and entrepreneurial field of work?
Being a young Asian woman in America’s building and construction industry comes with challenges. I always have to prove my worth and my experience significantly more aggressively than many of my peers in the business, to say the least. I have to have ideas that are three times stronger, more creative, and more inventive than everyone else if I plan on being heard. I don’t let any of that stop me, though, I can assure you!
6. What’s your secret for not letting that type of unfair standard get you down?
My vision. I am doing exactly what I want to do at this given time, and even when times get tough, there is no place I’d rather be. I know what I want, which means I have to do it for myself first. My creations, of course, are for my clients. I’m referring to my dream, my vision for the future I want. The administrative stuff, politics, economic factors, etc., though not ideal, are just a part of the process. When it comes to the work portion of OWIU, where I’m designing, realizing spaces, finding creative solutions to problems, and learning more about it every day, it never feels like work. That, I believe, is what makes all the difference.
7. Amanda, thank you so much for joining us for this brief interview. Where can readers keep up with you online?
Thank you for having me! Readers can learn more about me and OWIU, by following my personal Instagram and OWIC Design Instagram and Inflexion Builds Instagram. Additionally, you can check out the OWIU Design website.