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Dasha Ortenberg


Dasha believes deeply in design’s ability to stimulate critical thought, highlight the weirdness of individuals, and reveal uncanny overlaps of (sub-)cultures. Having emigrated as a refugee from the Soviet Union as a child, her pursuit of education and career is driven by cognitive dissonance. In seeking to reconcile her own deep gratitude to the United States with a recognition of its profound inequities, she works to unveil and promote stories of the places and people – both deeply problematic and beautiful.

Her 2013 speculative project, A Franchise of Difference, transformed documentation of interviews and sites from a 7,000-mile road trip into a proposal for a business franchise that promotes diverse cultural industries. Since then, she has worked nationally and internationally as an interdisciplinary strategist, designer, and artist on public impact projects. As a Cultural Envoy to Morocco through the DOS/ZERO1 American Arts Incubator, she led workshops in Casablanca highlighting creative subcultures and sites across the city.

Dasha holds degrees in Art History and Linguistics (UC Berkeley), and Architecture (Harvard GSD). In her independent work, pedagogical pursuits, and work for art and architectural practices she seeks to augment organization, experimentation, and advocacy. She has contributed to organizations including SEED, ACSA, NOMA, SAH WiA, and Leonardo LASER through research, writing, and speaking engagements. She is currently a Director on the Board of the AIA Silicon Valley (AIASVC). She was the 2019-2020 Chair of the AIASVC Women in Architecture Committee, and co-chaired both the AIASVC Architectural Intelligence Symposium and National AIA Women’s Leadership Summit in 2022.

Personalities – family, strangers, and cats – intrigue, perplex, and delight Dasha daily, as does re-connecting with them in both hyper-local and remote destinations.