Jun Aizaki has led his own Brooklyn-based practice, CRÈME/Jun Aizaki Architecture & Design, since 2004. A collaboration of dynamic, international designers and creative professionals, CRÈME’s ethos sees it tackle each project with the same problem-solving approach – whether that be for a chair, a restaurant or a building.
CRÈME’s award-winning founder is also designing this year’s Sleeper Bar, furthering the company’s explorations in traditional natural dying processes and celebrating the colour indigo.
Here, Aizaki talks stand-out career moments, the daily challenges he faces and what it really takes to start your own company.
Who, or what, inspired you to embark upon your chosen career path?
I was always interested in making things and making things better. As a child I was constantly making plastic models and drawing cartoons. I wanted to find a way to combine the two – and thought architecture and design had all of the components.
My father was a journalist and my parents traveled often for work. While growing up, I was extremely fortunate to travel with them and experience many different cultures. When I was eight years old, I remember travelling to Mexico and being fascinated with the colors, the sounds and the fruits. My travels and surroundings have greatly impacted my passions and peaked my curiosity about nature and the environment.
And who inspires you most now?
My family, my team and the city that I live in. My wife and son are my largest inspirations. My wife is an artist and is on a passionate mission to create. My son is 18 months old and his amount of curiosity and energy is unimaginable. CRÈME/Jun Aizaki Architecture & Design’s evolving team is a huge source of inspiration as well, being in New York, you come across some many people for so many places, so many ways of thinking and ways of looking at things.
Describe your career journey…
As a child I spent time in New York. My interest in the city and opportunities that it offered in the architecture field were vast. Whilst in Japan, I was reading through a book of design schools in the United States, I came across Pratt Institute and knew it was the beginning of my journey. I studied architecture at Pratt Institute where I was exposed to many ways of thinking and many people from different parts of the world.
I was able to continue my passion for design while working at Rockwell Group in New York, leading me to start my company CRÈME/Jun Aizaki Architecture & Design, 13 years ago. I am intrigued with hands-on projects, things that can touch, such as interiors, furniture design and branding. I enjoy seeing a project all the way through, from conceptualisation to the final installation, which is what I felt was missing in architecture.
Take us through your average working day…
I make a smoothie with our new Vitamix, I ride my motorcycle to our studio, catch up on emails, have a cup of coffee, if possible do some sketches and entertain meetings in the afternoon.
Both personally and professionally, what does it take to open your own practice?
It takes a lot of energy to open a practice but even more to keep the practice open. Our team works hard and we are persistent. Tackling hurdles everyday builds our confidence and I try to instill the ability to find interesting angles and positive possibilities from the most unexpected of things. My curiosity continues more and more each day and I try to put myself in many situations to stay connected and hopefully meet the right people.
Do you have any advice to those aspiring to break into the industry?
Never stop trying, stay true to your beliefs and always try to see the big picture.
What are your stand-out career moments and what did you take from them?
While working at Rockwell Group I was assigned to a local restaurant project. Conducting site visits was a revelation and for the first time I saw my visions coming to life, my drawings were no longer just drawings, they were a reality. Working on my first restaurant design and seeing it through opening was impactful and rewarding. The success of the restaurant and client’s happiness made all the hard work worthwhile. I try my best to ensure that our staff has similar experiences.
And the most unexpected thing to happen to you?
Last summer I found myself in a Gourd farm located in Pennsylvania attempting to grow cups naturally out of homegrown vessels. I never expected a career in architecture to provide such exciting and inspiring moments of creativity. As a hospitality designer I am able to think outside of the box and bring truly sustainable design elements to my projects and the world. These are the projects that allow me to give back and keep me very passionate about my job.
What are the biggest challenges you’re facing in your practice?
Both day to day and on a broader sense, I think things are changing, faster and faster and sometimes it is hard to stay on top of the ever-evolving world. There is so much information available, that you need to filter through and be able to stay true to yourself.
And finally, what are you most looking forward to?
For my company I am looking forward to establishing a group of creative thinkers and doers. In my personal life, it’s finding a good balance while doing so.