Designers Corner is the place where ShapeDiver designers talk about their work. There is a story behind every model, and who better to tell the story than the designer himself?
For this fourth episode, we interviewed Pavlina Vardoulaki. She's Co-Founder and Creative Director at DesignMorphine (we did an introduction of them a few weeks back, so if you haven't checked that out we suggest you do that as well to complement this read).
She's currently employed at Laguarda.Low Architects in New York working on large scale developments ranging from master plans to mixed use and public projects. She's also worked at renowned Foster + Partners in a number of residential and mixed use high rise buildings in Abu Dhabi.
- Hello Pavlina! Thank you for agreeing on doing this interview. What's your role inside DesignMorphine?
Hi, of course! My role is to establish new connections, create ideas for new topics, organize and teach workshops such as the collaborations of DesignMorphine with MIT and Harvard Graduate School of Design.
- What does Mass Customization represent to you?
Mass customization seems like a very typical and welcome aspect of design in many fields at this point in time. I believe it was a popular idea even before advanced parametric tool were available. However, new parametric design tools have made mass customization more easily obtainable. The major reason the production paradigm shifted towards mass production was to create things much cheaper and in quicker time frame.
Mass customization takes this idea and adds what we know as parameters, or rules within the mass-produced design that the consumer can alter to their liking. This paired with additive manufacturing really changed how products can be conceived.
For instance, a piece of jewelry can have a general design with parameters that allow one to change certain aspects for necessity such as a ring size, but changes can also be made for purely aesthetic factors as well, such as thickness.
Designs can then be manufactured via 3D printing, so no new molds need to be made for each ring typology. So, in summary, to me mass customization is still mass production but enables the consumer to tweak specified aspects to their liking, to design without being a designer.
- Tell us about DesignMorphine, why did it start? How did it start? How many people are involved?
DesignMorphine is a creative hub for design through workshops, lectures, projects and explorations in the field of architecture, design and the arts. Our goal is to provide the essential elements of trending design practices in a condensed way.
The team is comprised of around 30 talented designers along with many assistants and collaborating organizations. The organization started as an initiative of Tsvetelina Georgieva and myself when I was studying at the AA Design Research Lab and we decided that it would be great to share the knowledge with the younger generation of architects in Sofia, Bulgaria, where both of us studied architecture and felt that there was a lack of innovation in architectural academia there.
A year later, Michael Pryor joined us and we invited all our creative colleagues and previous outstanding students to join us on the adventure. So far, we have conducted over 30 workshops and courses in Europe, the Middle East and the USA.
DesignMorphine has also been involved in many other projects with different companies, competitions and charity activities, such as successful collaborations with Harvard and MIT.
- What or who inspired you to learn Parametric Design?
I was so fascinated by the rich forms and new possibilities in the field of architecture and design after seeing a Zaha Hadid Exhibition in the National Gallery in Sofia that I immediately decided to study architecture. I started learning about parametric design through a variety of workshops which I was attending by travelling to different cities in Europe while I was studying at the UACEG, Sofia.
I started implementing the new design techniques using Autodesk Maya and Grasshopper for my design studios and although the majority of my professors were skeptical at first, they all appreciated the new process and outcome at the end.
My thirst for knowledge led me to my second Master's Degree at the AA Design Research Lab, where I was immersed into the world of Parametric Design thinking and robotics.
The program was so exciting and challenging. It taught me so much, not only new software skills, but how to work in a team environment, how to overcome complex design issues and give the best as a designer. Above all, Parametric Design software gave the greatest gift of all... less time spent modeling!
- How is your work at DesignMorphine benefited by Parametric Design? Could it be possible any other way?
DesignMorphine is a platform which aims to encase the creativity and capabilities in design with the most applicable workflows being used today. Parametric Design is our strongest tool because through it we can create such diversity and complexity in a short amount of time in every design field.
We are teaching computational design applied to architecture, jewelry, fashion and furniture as well as coding, 3D modeling, fabrication, visualization, animation, virtual reality and robotics. We believe that the multidisciplinary approach and parametric design are the future.
It is the first time in history when one type of tool can be applied to so many design fields. Parametric Design is the tool that can give us such freedom and power to explore and exchange ideas in every possible design field, opening a window to explore unique methods and create a dialogue between a variety of disciplines interchangeably.
- What's the vision of DesignMorphine? Where do you want it to be in 5 or 10 years?
I personally see a great potential in the organization. My vision for DesignMorphine is to see it grow in all design fields, educate more people and bring more designs to life. I am so proud to be a part of this amazing team and I hope we will have more opportunities to work together and learn from each other.
At the moment we are most focused on workshops and education. We have done some design projects on occasions but I believe DesignMorphine would like to focus more evenly on design projects as it does education. As we progress we have this goal in mind to provide design and education to all through the support of creativity.
We are consistently lowering our prices, giving away discounted and free workshop entries and even doing workshops for charity. I would say the vision of DesignMorphine is in a flux, from one workshop a year in Bulgaria to 20 a year all around the world with a fantastic team all in a matter of 3-4 years without any school or university attached to us.
To me this is an achievement I am proud of. I would like to see us in 5 to 10 years as an organization which inspires and helps people, both students and team memebers, to improve and explore their creative interests through collaborative efforts and design.
We are establishing a kind of "exists nowhere but everywhere" nomadic school of design and I think this mentality will more and more become the education system of the future, just take a look at what Airbnb Trips is doing, that's where we are headed.
- Do you have any other projects in mind involving Parametric Design?
One of my favorite projects that I've been part of is "HyperCell", a team-based project of the Theodore Spyropoulos Studio at the AA DRL. Urban intervention in old cities, takes time to implement, so we proposed a new architecture typology that can address this issue.
The system analyses and takes action according to data stored by the city, live data collected from different vibrant sources and local data harvested by the system. Based on this data, the system takes decision on where to go and what spaces it needs to generate.
HyperCell is a self-assembly system that can create spaces by the local interaction of its robotic cells that are able to create spaces harvesting information by the environment. It is dynamic and responsive to change through self-awareness, mobility, softness and re-configurability. It is a time-based system which has no final form, but rather is in continuous formation, a constant reconfiguring ecology.
The ideology behind HyperCell is something that I am still very much interested in and am looking forward to getting back into, not specifically self-assembly cells, but design which responds to its surroundings and environment in any design medium. Currently the design medium of my interest is responsive fashion type, which I will begin to explore in the coming years.
- Wow, this all sounds amazing! We wish you success in all of your upcoming projects and we thank you for such a great insight in what you and your team contribute to the world of Parametric Design! Have a great day Pavlina.
You are more than welcome, and thanks for this opportunity!
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