Mina Greas is a designer and Design Director in environmental design. After receiving a Bachelors in Architecture from Woodbury University and a Full Time, Designated Career Technical Education Teaching Credential in Engineering and Design through the University of California, San Diego, he went on to begin his career in architecture. He works to lead creative teams with a passion for design and storytelling to build connections through immersive experiences. We recently caught up with Mina to discuss how his background has shaped how he designs today.
Mina has been an instructor and lead curriculum development for the Los Angeles Unified School District – Career Technical Education in Architecture, developing the first UC A-G approved Architecture Design course, S.T.E.M development and implementation, and the Environmental Engineering Sector in conjunction with the California Department of Education. He has taught Architecture and Design courses at various community colleges in Los Angeles for the past seven years. In addition to this he has also helped various brands create engaging and immersive experiences through environmental design.
I chose to study architecture because as a kid I was always fascinated by how things were built, buildings in particular. There was a complexity yet simplicity about them. As I grew older I started to notice more things in our built environment, and I cam to appreciate a well executed design, especially when people enjoyed it. Everything from environmental design in a theme park queue to an intelligent home layout for gatherings late into the evening. Something about space just seemed to work, or didn’t, and I wanted to be a part of solutions for future generations. Architecture was the discipline that would bring together everything I was interested in together: Design, Engineering, Construction, Materiality, Technology, People, and fostering relationships through how we live together and socialize. Woodbury was the perfect fit as it balanced training me as a designer and in the technical skills I would ultimately utilize as a practitioner in the industry. I felt everyone deserved to experience architecture. “Everyone, rich or poor, deserves a shelter for the soul.”—Samuel Mockbee
I think the two complement one another and work in a symbiotic way. Academia allows students to explore ideation, pushing the limits and developing new ideas. It is essential to know how far you can take your ideas and concepts. In professional practice, we learned how to balance constraints, budget, stakeholder values, and our clients goals. This is not to say that in academia there are no constraints, or a pragmatic set of conditions, but that both academia and practice complement one another in developing a designer in a well-rounded way.
Los Angeles is home. It has such a diverse socio-economic population, and I feel that has shaped me in becoming a culturally-sensitive designer and educator. I have learned so much from my students, as much as I have had the pleasure to teach them. They continually amaze me with their resolve and fortitude, their perspective, and how optimistic they are. I grew up here, so when I look at them I see myself. I want to help them better the profession, and in turn, our communities.
Architecture and design by nature is iterative. We are trained to adapt and be resourceful. No mater what the scope, budget, timeline, constraints, we will find a solution. Academia is constantly evolving and responding to the demands of the world we live in, and architects and designers have a built-in passion that asks questions and challenges the status-quo. Even if something is working, we will ask ourselves is there a better way, can we be more environmentally sensitive, and are there opportunities to help the community through greater impact. Architects and designers and the younger generation are inspiring in that they are creating and forming ideas that are larger than themselves and that ultimately serve a greater purpose.
My favorite projects always involve remote sites, cultural relevance, and very aggressive budgets. Constraints can be seen as limitations, but I have found that they are the framework to a successful design solution. Challenges force you to really develop and evolve into the best version of yourself. Without resistance a muscle will not grow. When a project also has a sense of time and place, it becomes special. You are creating something for people and the community. The experiential qualities and what people will feel in the design is my driving principal, rather than the object.
Remember an architect and designer are problem solvers. We are not designing for the sake of design and to make something that’s only aesthetically pleasing. We are given a problem (budget, deadline, materials, etc.) and expected to solve the problem. As a student, you are going through a program and being trained in all aspects of life. The skills you develop, and more importantly perspective you will gain, will transfer to all aspects of your life.
What are all the deliverables for your studio project?
List them out. Use your best judgement to prescribe the amount of time you think it will take you. Include time to design, time to produce (i.e. model out, draw, sketch), and the time you’ll need to revise. Now make a schedule. Once you write it down you are more likely to adhere to it. Its on paper so its official now. You will waste less time thinking and more time doing. Find pockets of free time that you work out, take a stroll through nature, hang with friends, and check out a movie. Stick to the schedule you created. Discipline is something you must value as it will serve you well.
You’re a designer after all, design your life and your day.
Take stock of what needs to be accomplished and make a plan, and stick to the plan. As you do this, you will find efficiencies and become more productive. You will find yourself completing more in less time and your life will balance out. You will not only meet all the project requirements but also have had a chance to enjoy a nice day out.
Inspiring, Holistic, and Life-Changing.