Asia Zdziarska, AIA, NCARB
Above L to R: Pavlina Williams, Gillian Watanabe, Asia Zdziarska, Alvin Juen, Zixuan Guo
Founded in 2018 by Asia Zdziarska, archemy.LA is a boutique architecture and construction firm specializing in design-build services. Asia graduated from UCLA with a master’s degree in architecture. Over the past 20 years she has lived, worked and built homes in South Africa, Australia and California.
What are some key qualities for women in leadership roles?
We all face challenges. Being a woman, there is a level of satisfaction in showing the world that I can do anything and take charge. Sadly, the world of construction is still a very sexist industry. The most essential quality is not falling into any stereotype that is expected of you and going for it. That goes for everyone, but especially for women in business. Women bring a different energy to a job site, and our ability to juggle so many different aspects of our lives gives us a particular edge.
What inspired you to pursue a career in your field?
My love for buildings and design has always been an all-consuming driving force for me. I love imagining spaces and then building them. Being an architect and builder takes the best of the creative and practical worlds and melds them into one. When I decided to follow my passion for architecture, I was a full-time mom with three young children. I already had a business degree under my belt. I always told my children how important it is to pursue one’s dreams, and becoming an architect was that for me. Being an architect was all I ever wanted. I worked hard, took some courses that allowed me to bridge my education with my new career, got accepted to UCLA’s architecture school and never looked back.
After spending years attending school, getting licensed and working as an architect, becoming a builder was a natural progression from there. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could design buildings in a meaningful way if they had no idea how they could be built, so I took on the challenge to learn the construction side. I completely love that part too.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in business?
Women are often tasked with child-rearing, and their careers fall by the wayside. I was one of those women. I chose to be with my children while they were little. That gave me a sense of starting late, which in turn gave me a burning desire to work harder, with greater clarity and direction. I approach everything with a huge level of commitment and intensity. Any challenge is also an opportunity when you do thoughtful and very deliberate projects like my firm does.
Why are you considered a go-to person in your industry?
I have an insider’s perspective on what it takes to create a real home for a family and how to navigate the challenges that come with that. I design homes to be well-oiled, functional machines that support not just the person running the home but the whole household.
Share a significant accomplishment in your career.
2022 was an amazing year for us! We are still a young firm, but we can proudly say that we were awarded the Best of Practice, New Small Firm in the West of the United States by The Architect’s Newspaper in 2022. We were recognized as an “emerging practice [that] offers outsized dedication to diversity and community, pioneering a contemporary turnkey, design-build approach to deliver residential worlds, designed for life, to a broader public.” It was a proud moment for us, showing that years of dedication and hard work can pay off. Our Squares House project was also featured in Southbay HOME in 2022 as well as in the Sandpipers Holiday Homes Tour.
What does success mean to you?
They say that architects are people pleasers. That is completely true; we love to make people happy. My greatest moments are seeing smiles on the faces of happy people loving the homes we have built for them. Success means having amazing relationships with my clients as we go on this journey together.
Have you had mentors who influenced your career?
Oh, so many amazing ones. Because I love beautiful things, I am constantly inspired by other architects who share my design aesthetic—many of them women. I look to them for inspiration. In many ways, we are one big design community. We complement each other because each of us, individual architect or firm, has something unique to offer.
How do you foster a positive work environment?
I believe in trying to bring the best out in people. Everyone should ultimately be doing what they love most. We all have to take care of parts of our lives we may find less fulfilling, but the crux of it should be that we spend a lot of time doing what we love best. Only then can we be truly passionate about what we do, and a world full of passionate people makes for a better place.
What motivates you to go to work every day?
I couldn’t think of anything I would rather be doing. I’m so incredibly lucky.
Photographed by Shane O’Donnell