Reading  -  Architect To Watch: Amanda Gunawan


Architect To Watch: Amanda Gunawan

The Founding Partner of OWIU believes that spaces should be built to evolve.

What is your design philosophy?

I believe in designing with intention. The work that we do at OWIU is fundamentally grounded in thoughtfulness, which is then carried forward into execution with the same sensibilities. We pride ourselves on careful craftsmanship. Oftentimes, lots of resources are used for each architectural project. It is therefore important to not let them go to waste. The end-result must be as well built as it is well thought out and must benefit as many stakeholders as possible.

I personally operate with a fine balance of receptivity and creativity, listening and participating. I believe these two functions to be inseparable. Spaces should not simply be built to last, but rather built to evolve. We leave room for the space to grow with its users. We are, after all, building for them. What we hope is that they develop a relationship with the space, with each serving the other's needs and growing together.

Which of your past projects are you most fond of and why?

The apartment Biscuit Loft in Downtown LA. We got to be very hands-on with the project. This was a true embodiment of our design philosophies. It also allowed us to be very careful and detailed with the building process, as well as be involved every step of the way. There was as much learning as there was improvising and despite the hurdles, everyone was very happy with the end-result.


What do you think are some of the attributes that set your projects apart from the rest? We never have that in our mind as we're designing to have the intention of being different. We tackle every project by starting with our own analysis of the project brief. This process starts off with a bouncing of ideas among our team members, until we finally agree on a shared direction that is often an amalgamation of everyone's ideas. Once the seed has been sowed, we delegate roles according to each person's skills. The resultant design is a collection of our individual experiences, perspectives and respective tastes. All that is then streamlined into a single shared direction and belief, of which is used to execute and turn into a reality. With that said, we are confident the final result will always be unique to OWIU. But that is simply a by-product of the shared passion that we share for the work that we do, rather than a goal that we strive towards.

You previously mentioned that “too much control in the creative process of architecture can limit the unpredictability that might result in an interesting outcome”. How is that belief pivotal to how you approach your project?

As mentioned above, I believe that spaces should be built to evolve vs simply last. If we were to control every single element in a space and limit its potential for growth, we would be greatly undermining the outcome. Designing and building are step-by-step processes. Parameters can be useful but too much would result in something predictable. Surprises/unpredictable outcomes during the design process are things that I very much welcome because they are ideas that are beyond the realm of what I can conceive beforehand.

How do you push the creative limit and explore new ideas in your work?

By always being receptive to learning. The truth is you don't have to look far to learn something new. On top of that, all roads eventually lead back to architecture. As an architectural designer, I find inspiration in everything around me, regardless of big or small. For example, while running by the beach yesterday, I stumbled upon a unique species of seaweed that had an iridescent sheen to it. It stood out among the browns of the sand, the greens of the rest of the seaweed around it, as well as the greys of some of the pebbles surrounding it, in an elegant yet non-flashy way. This iridescent shade is now the accent colour of one of our projects. Ultimately, I think you need to know yourself, are you the type of person who gets a creative jolt from interacting with the world around you or are you the type who needs to let the creative juices do their own thing in your head? I am a mix of both and in times when I need more of the latter, I simply read. A lot.

What projects are you currently working on?

We have a couple of exciting projects in the pipeline. We are working on a few classic mid-century modern houses. These projects are exciting because we get to evolve already-great designs and take them to the next level with all the contemporary tools that are available to us now that were not available then. We are also working on a few residential projects that allow us the creative freedom and liberty to explore new and inventive ways of using particular materials to really expand on their aesthetic capabilities. We are working on some commercial/residential projects on sites that are extremely picturesque, which is also very exciting territory for us, because context becomes the key driving force of the project.

Read about the other young architects on our radar in Issue 120: June 2021.

Low Shi Ping & Emma Xu
15 November 2021