The Ambassador Series: Amanda Gunawan
Hi Amanda! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a designer based in Los Angeles. I just graduated from Architecture school a couple of months ago, took up a full-time job at an Architecture firm but left to do my own thing. I am also a lifestyle instagrammer/blogger on the side, I rarely mix work with my instagram and used to prefer to keep it separate but am slowly trying to change that. I used to have the mentality that work and fun should be separated but am now a strong believer, as I am experiencing it first-hand, that if you love what you do, then work is no longer work so I am starting to integrate my design work into that part of my life. I also write and photograph. Right now, I am a writer and a photographer for the LA downtowner. I love doing it. It serves as a creative outlet for me. I channel my creative visions through writing and photography.
What made you want to pursue a career in architecture? As a woman in a male-dominated field, what challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
I get asked this question a lot and I am still struggling with trying to answer it because my love for Architecture happened the same way love happens. You can't pin-point the exact moment that it happened, it's usually dictated by an intangible force that only you feel that others can only be spectators to but not fully understand, you feel a rush when you talk about it even when no one is listening and the love. just. keeps. growing despite the ups and downs. I am a true city girl. I love being a part of an urban ecosystem that is constantly functioning and moving at all times. I love people watching and I love watching the interactions between a city and its inhabitants whether they are conscious of its effect or not. I have loved this for as long as I can remember. I also love design. I love every aspect of design but if I had to choose one, its spatial design. I like that Architecture has the potential to affect people at a much larger scale than I daresay, any other design discipline in the world.
I am originally from Singapore and while it is one of the most westernized Asian countries out there, it still has its deep-rooted conservative values, especially when it comes to women in work. Every time I go back to Singapore I am flooded with questions about marriage, settling down and having children. People there are always looking for things to criticize about you as a woman. It's funny because it's usually the women that put down other women. No one talks about your achievements and talks about where you are lacking instead. As a career-oriented woman, I am criticized for not prioritizing being a mother. I have friends who became mothers at a young age and they are constantly berated for not working so I suppose you will never win. Architecture is one of those fields where you have to be patient in order to see results. Success moves very slowly, more so than other disciplines because your work (a building, a house) takes years to complete. No one trusts you in this field unless you have a long track record of experience (and for good reason, you are building something for god's sake) and so to really become established will take very, very long. Combine this fact with the pressure of constantly being told to settle down and start a family (if I had a penny for the number of times I was told I had an expiration date), it makes it much harder for me to succeed. On one hand I want to focus on my work and give it all that I've got regardless of how long it will take and on the other hand I've heard horror stories from people back home about not being able to have a smooth pregnancy if you wait too long.
Being in LA is amazing for me, I am surrounded by SO MANY successful women who really can do it all. I meet someone who runs a respected business and is really hands-on about it who has to rush home to cook for their kids and still has the time to go for yoga in the evening. Their secret is to truly know who you are and what you want. Remove everyone else from the equation and ask yourself what drives you and go for it. That's essentially my mantra. I don't let anyone talk me down anymore.
On top of your career, you also have a very successful blog and Instagram. Does a different side of your creativity come out when blogging? How do you balance your responsibilities for both?
It does and it doesn't. My love for all things design-related is apparent in both my Instagram and career, I think. I used to want to keep work and Instagram (which is very much lifestyle related) separate but I am still trying to bridge them together, but not entirely. I don't want to flood my Instagram solely with work belonging to me because I also really love the work of other people. I have been trying to post more architectural-related photos (which have been very popular amongst my followers) because I want to bring awareness to the beauty of Architecture to people in the easiest and most universal way possible, Instagram. Architecture is such an esoteric field but it is getting a little better. People are surrounded by architecture but rarely aware of it. What I hope to achieve from my Instagram on top of posting lifestyle-related pictures is to present Architecture in a way that is universally beautiful and so everyone can appreciate it and hopefully become more aware of the ones around them.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
ALL CREATIVE WOMEN ARE INSPIRING TO ME.
What makes you passionate about the work you do?
I truly believe in the work that I do. I don't do work for the sake of it. I have, just once, created a piece of content that I was not comfortable with but had to for the sake of the client. I could not sleep at night (I'm serious!) and was depressed the entire day. I was moping so much everyone was so worried about me and upon hearing the reason for my depression they would just laugh it off BUT IT REALLY BOTHERED ME. I ended up emailing the client and turned down the job even though I had already delivered the content. I think it's very important to love what you do and to be proud of it at all times.
Why did you want to become a Glossary ambassador?
I want to share my story with other women out there. I know the struggles of being a woman in this era, sure they're not as terrible as what I'd imagine my grandmother had to go through, but the battle isn't won yet. Girls have to watch each other's backs. I want my daughter to grow up in a world that's kinder to her than the world that we live in and for it to carry on for her daughter and so on and so forth.
What are some of your favorite places in LA?
I am a creature of habit so if you go to these places regularly, we will most likely see each other. Eightfold Coffee when I meet a friend, want to get a quick breakfast or just need a place to chill. The Assembly if I need to have a work-related coffee meetup. Proof Bakery for THE BEST PASTRIES IN LA. Sqirl for a comfortable brunch. Destroyer for when I want to "escape". Matchabar for a quick beverage. Philz Coffee for their mint mojito. Blujam Cafe if I am feeling indulgent.