These days, most young entrepreneurs are on social media spreading awareness about their brand, whatever it may be. Amanda Gunawan has an impressive Instagram following, but perhaps it’s her original intention to connect personally with others that still shines through, which makes us ever interested in learning more about this up-and-coming architect. Gunawan owns two successful companies, captivates followers with simple, ethereal Instagram posts, and inspires a love of architecture in even those of us who have never given much thought to design. Like many success stories, the dream for Gunawan began in childhood.
Born in Indonesia and raised in Singapore, Gunawan has always been interested in real estate development. When she decided that she wanted to be the one actually to design the spaces, she looked into a career in architectural design. Studying at Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), Gunawan got her degree, going on to work for Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne at Morphosis, where she learned some of her most valuable business lessons. “When I interviewed for the job, the interviewer said that at Morphosis, everyone on board has to be captains. It didn’t matter whether you were a principal or a newcomer, you needed to be willing to wash dishes or present to a client.” That attitude carried over into future endeavors, like the two companies she now runs.
With partner Joel Wong, Gunawan began OWIU, short for The Only Way is Up, an architectural design firm, and later, Inflexion, a full-service design and build team. The former does thoughtful design projects, while the latter is a construction arm to OWIU, completing quick remodels, such as the home gym garage renovation shown here. With an often Japanese-Scandanavian aesthetic, Gunawan creates spaces that flow, that inspire, and that play on understated elements to instill a peaceful Zen-like result.
When asked about what success means to her, Gunawan is quick to list things other than merely “getting ahead” in business as the brass ring to happiness and wealth. “Success comes to me in the form of learning,” she says. “My greater successes may or may not even receive credit.” For example, Gunawan recently deciphered an entire Japanese recipe, a language she is working on mastering. Finally, achieving the level of language proficiency to read a foreign cookbook is a win for Gunawan. Additionally, she credits a strong inner resolve to her career success. In a field mostly full of Caucasian men, twenty-nine-year-old Gunawan has had to continually go the extra mile to prove her worth, her experience, and her right to have her hat in the ring on essential projects. The challenges have only made her stronger, however, something she chalks up to knowing her self-worth. “Know exactly what you want in every sense of the word,” she says, “and then go straight for it.”
One of the things that sets Gunawan and her companies, Inflexion and OWIU, apart is her core belief that it is absolutely critical for an architect to be connected to the external world. She explains that she is, after all, designing for people, and it would be a shame if the ideas were all internalized within one’s own imagination. By meeting people from all walks of life, talking with them, seeing things through their eyes makes her a better and more effective designer. That is what serves as her inspiration and driving force for the calming, fluid designs she’s becoming known for.
Currently, Gunawan is working on an exciting mid-century modern remodel that is keeping her quite busy. Personally, she is building a concrete bed for herself, too. What we can expect from Gunawan in the future is a lot more architecture on display, more inspirational Instagram content, and a possible photo series in Japan that she hopes to incorporate into future architectural design projects in the months and years to come.
To learn more about Amanda Gunawan and OWIU, follow her on Instagram Amanda’s personal Instagram and OWIC Design Instagram and Inflexion Builds Instagram. Additionally, you can check out the OWIU Design website.