INSPIRING THE IMAGINATION

projects focused on learning, observing, interacting

IOANA URMA

ARTIST / ARCHITECT

Ioana is a friendly and (excluding this about page) humble, multi-faceted, award-winning artist and architect, with a very wide range of design experience: from small illustrations to complex, multi-million dollar buildings.
The goal of her work is to enrich people’s lives, through learning and a heightened awareness of things around them.
Based in Los Angeles, CA, she has worked on art, design, and architecture projects in North America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Her practice was founded in Boston in 2003, after winning the Art Interactive international design competition, though she had worked on independent projects before, and re-established itself in LA in 2008.

CONTACT

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LOCATION

El Segundo (LA), CA, USA

LICENSES + DEGREES

  • + CA Architect License
  • + MArch (Architecture), MIT
  • + BS (Interior Design), Cornell University
  • + Study Abroad (Architecture), DIS, Denmark

TEACHING - DESIGN STUDIOS

  • + Otis College of Art & Design
  • + ArtCenter College of Design
  • + Roger Williams University
  • + Boston Architectural College

LEARNING + SENSORY

An extremely inquisitive person, Ioana brings her curiosity about the world into all her design projects. As much as she loves to explain (and teach), she also wants to get people to notice things and to question them.
Her work focuses on combining observation/education - of science, engineering, history, and/or society - with sensory experience - of colors, space, movement, the urban environment, and nature.

FOR PEOPLE / THE PUBLIC

Ioana is committed to designing projects for the public good. For this reason she has tried as best she could to put her art and design into public spaces - streets, parks, bus stops, libraries, educational spaces - including on TV, the virtual public realm, in commercials and TV shows. It is also the reason she has completed so many projects for the educational foundation Iridescent, which brings STEM education to underprivileged children and youth.
Her first real experience with the value of public art and education, and urban public space, came from hanging out in various parts of Greater Boston in high school, particularly in Harvard Square, which was a short bus ride away from home. It was, at the time, a city and a place where a kid without a lot of money could easily get around with public transportation, and see and experience art, music, film, read books, attend lectures, and visit museums, for free or almost free (there were many great used books stores), both indoors and out.

PROCESS

RESEARCH
Based on a love of learning, all of the projects involve a lot of research. On the STEM education projects that is obvious. But even the non-directly-educational work involves, in fact, a lot of research - of the criteria, the context, and the competition.
CLIENT COMMUNICATION
Projects develop in continuous communication with the client. There are never any big surprises, as a conversational collaboration supports the progress all along.
BY HAND
Coming from a generation that was trained to draw, draft, and build models by hand, Ioana uses a lot of sketches in design development. Alongside digital models, quick cardboard study models are built on all spatial projects, as they can be more truthful and help to communicate the design better to both the client and the fabricators, eliminating the need for additional drawings. While most of the graphic work to date is digital, there are plans to incorporate more hand drawing, painting, and possibly collage.
BUDGETS
Having supported herself through college and grad school, and financed her art and business ventures completely on her own, Ioana understands the need to be extremely clever about and careful with budgets. She has personally managed projects up to $2.7M (and stayed within budget), and completed construction administration on projects up to $13M.
CONSULTING FABRICATORS
On projects which require fabrication, Ioana consults with a wide array of people, visiting fabricators’ workshops ahead of projects starting. She once even visited a couple of galvanizing plants (with open hydrochloric acid vats!), and has toured (non-project-related) factories as pastime, at home and on vacation.
EFFICIENCY
An extremely organized person, Ioana keeps detailed time on all her projects, always searching for more efficient ways of doing things. This does not mean that corners are cut. A very self-critical person, she does not get tired of reworking a project until the final design is the best that it can be, well crafted and solid in concept.

GRAPHIC CLIENTS

  • + Iridescent
  • + USC
  • + Stanford
  • + KidWind
  • + The Mission Productions
  • + The Blue Heron Foundation
  • + Long Beach Gas & Oil
  • + MIT
  • + New Generation Energy
  • + Factual
  • + Kaiser Permanente
  • + The Romanian Cultural Inst. NY
  • + Carbonell

ARCH. & INTERIORS CLIENTS

  • + The Art Interactive
  • + Totah Design
  • + Perez Design Group
  • + Iridescent
  • + Cornell Center for the Environment
  • + Cornell College of Human Ecology
  • + Private

ART CLIENTS

  • + The City of El Paso Museums & Cultural Affairs Department
  • + The Long Beach Redevelopment Agency
  • + The Arts Council for Long Beach
  • + Figment Boston
  • + Figment San Diego
  • + LA Works
  • + Hopscape

PERSONAL HISTORY

Ioana was born and grew up in Bucharest, Romania, in a beautiful 19th C. house with a paradisiacal garden full of roses, flower and fruit bushes and vines, fruit trees, pine trees, good conversation, and laughter. When her historic neighborhood started being demolished to build the communist dictator’s palace (because it was central in the capital) - an event referred to as Ceaushima (Ceausescu + Hiroshima) due to the large scale of horrific destruction - she played with her younger brother and all the boys around on future infrastructure parts: breaking, burning, and making whatever they wanted.
It was playing freely in these two diametrically opposed environments - a lush garden and a demolished/ construction site - that developed her curiosity and creativity, and instilled an understanding of things sacred and things scarred.
Alongside this, two series of books further fueled her imagination: a 30+ collection of international folk and fairytale books, full of magic, symbolism, and foreign cultures, entitled Povesti Nemuritoare, and several recreational math books with challenging riddles.
At the age of 10 she moved to LA, learned English watching The Love Boat, and became immersed in the iconic culture of 80s LA - malls, neon, new wave, KROQ, pool parties, “and like, for sure...” - spending all possible weekends bodysurfing at the beach.
Halfway through high school, she moved to Boston (major culture shock #2), where she learned about American history, how to use the emphasizing adverb “wicked” (as in “wicked cold weatha”, though she never did), and the value of the urban pedestrian amenities she had previously experienced as a child in Romania: pedestrian public space, designed public parks, and functioning public transportation.
Before focusing completely on art and design projects, she was passionate and curious about: 1. psychology, 2. world religions, and 3. languages, having studied and (mostly) forgotten German, Spanish, French, and Danish, aside from her native Romanian in which she is still fluent, and beside attempts at figuring out some non Indio-European languages and trying to invent a new one. Growing up, math was by far her favorite subject. Yes, despite all that time playing outside, she was, and is, still a nerd!