A quote for this week...

"To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work."

I believe that our relationship with the built environment has the potential to be richer and more fulfilling. I am interested in pushing buildings beyond being containers for the lived experience to become active participants and contributors to that experience. I see the process of intentionally and thoughtfully integrating technology into the built environment as an important layer of design practice and something that should be investigated within the deeper cultural and socioeconomic context within which our experiences exist. In the last year I have focused on research around machine learning and the opportunities and challenges around the integration of ml-based technologies into the built environment. I am particularly interested in developing work in the public realm because of its potential to continually change and evolve thought its interaction with people and its context.

My range of skills and experiences spans across disciplines in order to best serve my interests in understanding and engaging different ways people engage with the built environment. The diversity of tools and approaches I use is driven by what I want to understand rather than what I already know. My process is built on a strong foundation of design thinking which gives me an ability to engage at all scales of a project. At the full system view I develop conceptual frameworks for projects and understand all the different elements that need to go into successful execution. At the same time I can drill into any one of those elements to develop proof-of-concept prototypes and communicate effectively with subject-matter experts and collaborators.

Image by Scott Crawford

Background

I grew up with Roman ruins as my playground, wondering how people lived their lives in those spaces a thousand years ago. I have continued this interest in understanding the built environment as an important backdrop for human experiences throughout my academic and professional path.

I received my Bachelor’s in Art and Architectural History from Emory University in Atlanta. Knowing that I would eventually be pursuing a professional architecture degree, at Emory I focused on learning as much as I could about the context of architecture: the social, economic, and cultural foundations that shape and define architecture and people’s relationship to it. After taking a set design class in my last year there I became close with the professor who taught it and ended up helping her on a few of her projects. This led to me doing my own set design and construction for small theater companies in Atlanta, which continued once I moved to Berkeley for my graduate work.

During my graduate studies at UC Berkeley I was able to connect with fantastic mentors whose work focused on innovative processes, materials, and systems in the built environment. With their guidance I was able to develop research around digital fabrication techniques and tools as well as explore innovate processes with a range of materials, such as ceramics and polymers. The use of technology to inform and push design has been a foundational aspect of my architectural education, informing my creative process and shaping my professional trajectory.

After finishing my Masters of Architecture, I took a detour from architecture and spent several years in the Seattle tech and fabrication community through my work at a local maker space, Metrix Create: Space. There I focused on helping other people realize their design ideas, using a wide range of analog and digital design and fabrication methods. Among many other things, at Metrix I learned proper soldering technique, how to design simple electronics boards, and how to turn a CNC router into a giant 3D printer for melted down milk jugs. One of the most important aspects of working there was to be quick at identifying all the different aspects of a project and what tooling and materials it might need, then acquiring any new workflows necessary to complete the work. It was fast paced and the diversity of projects kept me on my toes and constantly learning. The other most important aspect of working at Metrix was developing an ability to connect with many different people, understand their needs, and communicate with them effectively in order to get their projects realized.

My entry back into architecture was as the research and development coordinator for Olson Kundig Architects where I was responsible for advancing research efforts and the incorporation of new tools and technologies into the firm’s design process. After two years as the r & D coordinator at Olson Kundig, I joined LMN Architects as part of the Tech Studio research group. There I spent four and a half years combining my interest in electronics, digital fabrication, and software to push the practice of architecture through research, development of prototypes, and collaboration with other industries. I am currently finishing up my last requirements for becoming a licensed architect.

Contact

Send me a message: plamena@milusheva.com

Recent Talks

"Environmental Interaction"

HCDE 539: Physical Computing and Prototyping
Human Centered Design and Engineering
University of Washington

This talk focuses on providing a context to students who are early in their graduate experience with building hardware and software interactive designs. The presentation is a mix of inspirational examples from a range of different artists and some of my own work. Part of the talk uses one of my projects as a case study to give the students insight into the full process of designing an interactive installation - from concept to figuring out the right connectors. Through the case study I emphasize the importance of leaving room for the unexpected in designing ineractive installations for public spaces.

"Examine Applied Technologies in Action to Measure Education Space Performance"

Pacific Regional Conference
Society for College and University Planners

This panel talk looks at three different experiemntal technology-based solutions to challenges of collecting user data in the built environment. My part of the presentation focused on the PODDs, which is a multi-sensor small deployable unit designed to be left in spaces to collect information from sensors chosen as proxies for human comfort.

"If These Walls Could Talk..."

Design, Use, Build Seminar (DUB)
Human Computer Interaction & Design
University of Washington

Video Recording

Will the buildings of the future understand us, comfort us, support us, in addition to providing us with shelter? Could they help us be more productive, more present, or more connected to our surroundings? We are entering a new chapter in the life of the built environment where the digital tools no longer simply replicate the analog more efficiently but instead completely redefine our relationship to buildings both as designers and as users. In this talk, which is one part elegy to architecture’s strife with the digital world and three parts ode to architecture’s rebirth through digitally integrated processes and experiences, I present a set of interactive installations developed to help us, the designers, engage directly with new tools and technologies in preparation to design for hybrid physical/digital environments.

"Designing [with/for/against/around] Data"

Arch 498: Creating Responsive Environments
College of Built Environments
University of Washington

Is data the newest material for designers to work with in their projects? This talk explores the opportunities and challenges of collecting and integrating data in the built environment. It looks at a range of research projects that collect and use information in different ways.

"LMNts: Moving Parts"

Arch 528: Digital Design for Fabrication and Construction
College of Built Environments
University of Washington

This talk introduces architecture students to the value of prototype-based research within architecture. It focuses on how the process of designing and building full-scale installations for public engagement develops in-house expertise that allows architects to communicate more effectively with fabricators as well as engage new technologies into the design workflow.

"HO3: Participate in Live POE while Learning about Comfort and Tools"

The Greenbuild International Conference and Expo
US Green Building Council

This talk combines a presentation on post occupancy evaluation with an introduction of the PODDs as an experimental tool to collect poe data. The talk included a live interaction with the units, which were set up to collect data within the presentation space. The talk focuses on the value of having the AEC industry more engaged in designing the tools we need.

Teaching

Lecturer, San Jose State University

dsIT83: Visual Communication

FA 2021

  • Developing course direction and strategy for foundational course in the Interior Design Department
  • Designing technical hands-on tutorials for a range of 2D and 3D drawing tools
  • Creating and delivering lectures on design history, drawing techniques, and visualization workflows

Virtual Program Lead, Sawhorse Revolution

Fundamentals of Design

WI 2020/2021

Read more about this program

  • Developed and led virtual learning program focused on introducing high school students to ideas about design through exposure to diverse design methodologies and immersion into design thinking
  • Managed the coordination of the design mentor group and guest speakers
  • Created presentations and exercises designed to engage students with small-scale physical model making at home

Program Co-Instructor, Sawhorse Revolution

Design/Build all-womxn high school program

FA 2014 - SP 2018

  • Designed and taught curriculum for two-part program focusing on introduction to architectural design and documentation and carpentry and construction
  • Instructed students in the development of complete micro-home designs
  • Coordinated on-site construction carried out by students

Co-Instructor, University of Washington

BE 505·Design Change: Digital Fabrication Studio [Rob Corser]

SU 2017

  • Collaborated on studio programming and management
  • Led group and individual design critiques
  • Provided fabrication instruction for the development of installation for Seattle Design Festival

Instructor, Metrix Create: Space

Hands-on Workshops

FA 2011 - FA 2013

  • Developed course material and instruction on:
    • basic electronics, including theory, circuit design, and prototyping
    • microprocessors with a focus on the Arduino platform and basic periferals
    • Pprinciples of casting including mold design, material selection, and techniques

Digital Lab Instructor, UC Berkeley

ARCH 100A·Fundamentals of Architectural Design [R. Shepherd]

SU 2010

  • Developed and implemented introductory lectures, tutorials, and exercises for Rhino, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop
  • Provided on-going individual and group project critiques

Digital Lab Instructor, UC Berkeley

ARCH 201·Elasticity Inquiries [M. Paz Gutierrez]

SP 2010

  • Developed and implemented lectures and tutorials in Generative Components and Grasshopper for upper level graduate students focusing on parametric applications
  • Provided on-going individual and group project critiques

Graduate Student Instructor, UC Berkeley

ED11A·Visualization: Drawing Inquiries [M. Paz Gutierrez]

FA 2009

  • Introduced architectural drawing techniques and advanced the development of critical visualization methodologies through complex two- and three-dimensional analysis
  • Led on-going individual and group project critiques
  • Developed and presented course-related lectures

Graduate Student Instructor, UC Berkeley

ARCH 140·Energy and Environmental Management [C. Benton]

SP 2009

  • Instructed students in foundational building performance strategies
  • Led group project critiques and hands-on lab exercises
  • Developed course programming

Deeper Dive
Fundamentals of Design

In Winter 2020/2021 I had the opportunity to develop and co-teach a virtual program for Sawhorse Revolution, an amazing Seattle-based organization focused on teaching high school students in the South Seattle area carpentry, design, and leadership skills. This was the first time Sawhorse was providing virtual programming so there were many adjustments to be made. Normally I co-teach a design/build womxn's program with the organization so we had to develop a completely new type of curriculum for the virtual environment.

After a number of worksession we settled on Fundamentals of Design for the program's theme, The focus was on exposing the students to a wide range of design fields, designers, and design processes. As the lead mentor, my role was to help guide the direction of the program as we moved through our 10 weeks, providing structure for the sessions, including lesson planning, individual work assignments, and mentor team coordination. I had the privilege of working with an amazing team of co-mentors who contributed valuable insights, developed engaging lectures, and week after week helped guide the students in their design discovery process.

In the first half of the program, we focused on teaching some design basics and exposing the students to as much diverse design content as we could pack into our 2 hours each week. The students learned about elements of 2D and 3D representation through lectures, short hands-on activities, and longer individual creative exercises. The second half of the program was developed around pushing the students' own design thinking and creative process. We had amazing guest speakers who shared their own design processes with the students and all the exercises centered around one larger final project.

As a way to provide cohesion to the work in the second half, we assigned each student a national park to serve as conceptual inspiration for the smaller exercises and the larger final project. The final project was to design and develop the physical elements of a boardgame similar to Candyland called Discovery Park. The game was organized around visiting the national parks that the students were assigned. Each student was responsible for designing a subset of the game card deck and a board tile, both pertaining to their individual park. We then created one full deck from all the cards and were able to test out virtual game play. The students' creativity and willingness to try new things in the process of designing was truly inspiring. The end result was beautiful, quirky, and full of intentionality.

Image composite of student work