Amanda Gunawan is not your average millennial entrepreneur—but she does want to infuse your life experiences and stories into her unique Japanese-Scandinavian architectural masterpieces
When you drop by Amanda Gunawan’s Instagram account, you will quickly be drawn in by her ethereal photography, with images of rain falling into puddles, sunlight dancing on a wall, beautiful Japanese dishes, and the interesting way she captures shadows. But something you will also learn if you stick around a while, is that Gunawan is not just a master photographer. She also runs two successful architectural LA-based businesses, and has an impressive resume under her belt. At only twenty-nine, Gunawan has already achieved more success (largely by refusing to give into fear or industry bias) than many people twice her age in the architectural field.
The Only Way is Up
Gunawan was born in Indonesia, raised in Singapore, and came to Los Angeles to study architecture at Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), where she got her degree. Landing a coveted position at Morphosis under the Pritzker-Prize winner, Thom Mayne, Gunawan honed her skills before leaping into entrepreneurship with partner, Joel Wong. The two seized the opportunity to go into business together, creating OWIU, short for The Only Way is Up, a full-service architectural design firm. Combining elements of nature and the external world with the structures they build upon, OWIU creates flowing, simple designs that inspire peace, utility, and beauty when completed.
Spaces Designed to Inspire
Gunawan created Inflexion in 2020, a construction firm that serves as an arm to the design firm. Where OWIU tackles larger, more in-depth projects that are catered to thoughtful design, Inflexion takes on the quicker remodels such as garage conversions and smaller jobs. Both companies operate from a place of truly wanting to understand clients’ needs and desires, with a goal of creating spaces that are cost-effective in scope but also stunning to work or live in.
Gunawan stands out from the competition by maintaining a personal connection with clients and fans of her work. Both online and in person, Gunawan makes a point to listen to what people have to say, observe their life experiences, and bring nature into her designs. “I’m designing for people, after all, so it’s critical to be exposed to others’ lives on various levels to gain a deeper understanding of the world around me,” she says. In this way, she has amassed an impressive Instagram following of nearly 150,000 between her personal and company accounts.
What we can look forward to in the future is a lot more architectural designs showcased on the company websites and on Instagram. Gunawan is working on an exiting home project that involves building a concrete bed. OWIU is also in the midst of a mid-century home redesign that is proving to be breathtaking, as well as deeply satisfying to the talented Gunawan, who says that her work never feels like work at all.
“My work gives me purpose, so I can get past the mundane day-to-day responsibilities and issues easily. It is the creative designs that keep things fresh and exciting, so I never feel the need to escape my job in any way.”
Sometimes it is the unrecognized “wins” that Gunawan obtains the most pride. Whether that is mastering a Japanese recipe through her increasing knowledge of the language (in other words, not needing to translate the instructions into English) or capturing the perfect light and shadows for a photo series, Gunawan puts her heart and soul into everything she does. The results are impressive: She is one of the most successful up-and-coming architects in LA, with many more projects to come.
The Best is Yet to Come
Like all entrepreneurs, Gunawan has faced challenges, had to overcome stereotypes, and even dealt with degrees of prejudices against her race and gender. However, these sorts of experiences have strengthened her resolve to keep her nose to the grindstone and continue paving the way to higher and higher success. We can expect great things from Gunawan, OWIU, and Inflexion in the months and years to come.
Where can readers keep up with Amanda Gunawan online?
We encourage readers to keep up with Amanda Gunawan and OWIU by following her on Instagram Amanda’s personal Instagram and OWIC Design Instagram and Inflexion Builds Instagram. Additionally, you can check out the OWIU Design website.