Interview with Asami Wajima, Garde Co., Ltd., Japan

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Asami Wajima

Asami’s vision in design is to adapt natural and earthy elements, along with trendy color themes of the time.

Interview with the 2021 MUSE Design Awards Winner - Asami Wajima

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your design background.

I was educated in the United States and have over 15 years of professional experience in interior design. I came back to Japan after being involved in the City Center development in Las Vegas with Leo A Daly for 2 years. After developing my career in GARDE HQ in Tokyo by working on the Tokyo Sky Tree project and others retail projects in and outside of Japan, I was relocated to Hong Kong for 5 years where I was involved in department store, shopping mall, retail shop, club lounge projects mainly in China. I have been stationed in Singapore since 2018 as a design director for Garde’s projects in the ASEAN market including resort hotels and F&B projects.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a designer/artist?

I guess I was inspired by my uncle who is a professional carpenter, as well as my father who became a weekend-handyman. They have just kept upgrading/renovating our over 100-year-old Japanese-style house area-by-area and piece-by-piece. That is where I first learned “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and “it takes time and effort to create something extraordinary”.

3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.

GARDE is a global interior design firm which was established 35 years ago in Tokyo, Japan. GARDE is an accumulation of talented designers in commercial design, such as high-end boutique shops, department stores, shopping malls, etc, hospitality design, such as hotels, service residences, lounges, etc, as well as corporate office design and food & beverage design. I have established my work experiences in almost all the aforementioned categories through related projects. Currently, I’m representing the Singapore branch office while designing a resort hotel and two shopping mall designs in Malaysia, and one retail design in Singapore, among others.

4What does “design” mean to you?

Design doesn’t mean inventing something out of nothing. Instead, it is about refashioning what already exists to meet client’s demand.

5What’s your favorite kind of design and why?

My favorite designi is “now”, that is, to adapt natural and earthy elements along with trendy color themes at that time.

6To you, what makes a “good” design?

By designing commercial spaces instead of personalized spaces such as residential houses, the space should be liked by everyone and provide comfort for end-users rather than targeted to someone specific. At the end of the day, proposals need to fit what the client wants.

7Describe your design style and its main characteristics.

I do not think I have any particular design style but tend to use what’s around to generate new concepts, new designs, and new perspectives which suit each project.

8Tell us about your design process.

I begin my design process based on analysis of project information in to order clarify a project target and goal with the client. Usually, I start thinking about design concepts with keywords by getting inspiration through the Internet, social media and magazines, especially considering the current Pandemic situation because you cannot easily travel and visit places physically in order to get design inspirations.

9Do you think your country and its cultural heritage has an impact on your design process?

Even though my experience as an interior designer in Japan is much less than what I experienced overseas, I have certain knowledge with respect to what I saw when I grew up. That has been impacted and adapted into a part of design especially “simplicity and imperfection” philosophy, and “continuity or repeatability” methods.

10Congratulations! As the winner of the 2021 MUSE Design Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?

I am happy for myself and have a lot of gratitude for the team members who spent time and effort to create something extraordinary. It wasn’t always easy to complete the project, but every accomplishment gives us both positive and negative knowledge through experiences which allows us to grow and go on to the next step in our careers.

11Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2021 MUSE Design Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

The Gurney Food Hall is an F&B project located in a shopping mall in Penang, Malaysia. The 3,000 sqm retail space required in-depth and complex conversion to be used as a full-scale F&B zone. The layout which needs to include specific numbers of units, mini restaurants, seating capacity and other requirements was completed without compromising the maximum ceiling height of the public space of the Food Hall. We chose to enter this project because in order to establish an award-winning Food Hall Design for the client’s long-term plan in the future; to expand their F&B footprint across Southeast Asia.

12What was the biggest challenge with this project?

On one the difficulties with the project was to create the layout for one food hall zone, which required to us to keep the connectivity around existing fashion retail tenants in the center of its space. Due to the expansion of the F & B zone into other retail tenants previously, we were required to add mechanical and ducts above which caused lower ceiling heights at about 2.3 meter in some areas.

13How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?

We have not noticed any major changes after we won the award yet hope to receive calls for inquiries on our, that is, GARDE’s, design consultancy services.

14What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?

Interior Design is to express your 1. Passion, 2. Creativity, 3. Knowledge onto the three-dimensional canvas which is provided.

15What makes your country specifically, unique in the design industry?

Japan one of the most isolated island countries in the world which has its own culture, language, as well as issues (i.e., natural disasters). This isolated condition has mentally and physically created differences from others which became a unique presence in Japanese style.

16Where do you see the evolution of design industry going over the next 5-10 years?

Only a few designers who have a creative mind can survive in this industry within the next decade or maybe even sooner. This is because of the rapidly innovated searching tools through the Internet. Any type of information can be feasibly accessed by anyone and from anywhere. Therefore, we should probably be aware of the possibility of losing the opportunity to provide design consultant services to end-users.

17If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring MUSE Design Awards submitter, what advice would you give them?

I would advise them to pursue variety of life experiences and chances ahead even in the face of this dark era due to the current Pandemic.

18What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the design industry?

I would recommend them to travel and see with their own eyes and feel and experience by using their five senses. Having said that, under the current circumstances, using Internet sources and social media are the best thing that you can get information from.

19What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

I have not succeeded with anything in my career yet.

Winning Entries


KL EAST MALL | MUSE Design Awards

KL EAST MALL is born in a suburb about 30 minutes away from the urban area where the township development is progressing in recent years. The mall...
(read more at MUSE Design Awards)

Garde Co., Ltd.

Garde Co., Ltd. is an award-winning product design studio based in Japan.