The Advisory Board is Woodbury School of Architecture’s professional body for academic involvement, providing insights, leadership assistance, and serving as liaisons in the local community. The Advisory Board members provide valuable input in curricular, entrepreneurial, strategic, community engagement, and overall performance in regards to the School of Architecture that’s grounded in the SOA mission. The board consists of individuals who have diverse experience in architecture and interior architecture, from principals and leading practitioners to founding members of non-profit organizations.
As an arts advocate, consultant, curator, executive, and public servant Merry Norris has dedicated her career to the cultural and civic life of Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Pasadena.
She has championed public art awareness and design excellence through her role in numerous major activities, including being instrumental in the founding and funding of MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) 1979-84, and as Executive Director of Gateway to L.A. PBID 1998-2001.
In addition to being named an Honorary Member of the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles (AIA/LA) in 1990, Norris is the first person in the Chapter’s history to be elected as a Public Member to the Board of Directors of AIA/LA in 1995 and served for 14 years on the Board of Directors. In October 2011, Norris was awarded the Presidential Award as the first “Design Advocate”, “in recognition for being a sublime design champion and public arts maverick.”
She recently joined the Board of Advisors for the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Design and The Industry, which presents new and experimental productions that merge music, visual arts, and performance in order to expand the traditional definition of opera, for example “HOPSCOTCH”.
Past Board of Directors participation include LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions), Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery Associates, Project Restore (Los Angeles City Hall), Los Angeles Conservancy, and Collage Dance Theatre.
She works closely with the project architects, landscape architects, contractors, interior designers, lighting consultants and graphic designers. Her educational background includes the Professional Designation in Interior Design from UCLA.
Ignacio Rodriguez is a self-made and visually-driven architect with an impressive slate of luxury real estate successes throughout Southern California. His slate spans high-end luxury homes that range from 5,000 square-foot contemporary new-builds to 70,000 square-foot estates that are among the largest houses on the market in America. Since launching his own architecture firm, IRA (Ignacio Rodriguez Architects), at the age of 28, Rodriguez has quickly become a vigorous force in the highly-competitive world of LA luxury residential architecture. Rodriguez places a strong emphasis on collaborating with clients to bring their vision and his designs to fruition by fusing his client-focused approach with a passion for providing functional, yet visually-appealing designs.
Leading IRA to constant advancement and innovation, Rodriguez recently launched AVR, a virtual reality studio offering virtual property inspections for clients, developers and financial institutions to facilitate the development process.
Being a Southern California-native, his work is informed by his deep appreciation and natural understanding of the demographic, climate and distinct design potential in Los Angeles. Rodriguez attended Woodbury University in Burbank, CA and upon completing several years of professional practice, he launched his own company with the intent to create a firm that leads with a client’s vision. Rodriguez’s architecture aspirations began at a young age, leading him to join an architectural program in high school and intern at an architecture firm at 15 years old.
Rodriguez resides in Granada Hills, CA with his wife and three kids. When he’s not busy building someone’s dream home or being a car-enthusiast, you can find him on the local baseball field.
Mia Lehrer was raised in El Salvador in a family that engaged in community participation and leadership. Her father founded a land conservation and youth camping program aimed at helping disadvantaged youth. Her mother started a microlending program for women in the 1960s. While in the United States to attend Tufts University, Mia was introduced to landscape architecture through a retrospective of Frederick Law Olmsted’s work. She earned her Master of Landscape Architecture from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, and moved to Los Angeles with her husband, architect Michael Lehrer. She entered the profession with a focus on the design of residential gardens, establishing a methodology for her design practice that she would later apply at larger scales and projects that are more complex.
As Mia’s practice and her family grew, she led community initiatives to improve the local schools and volunteered with her children to help the local environment. One of these volunteer activities was the annual La Gran Limpieza river cleanup, hosted by Friends of the Los Angeles River, where she met cofounder Lewis MacAdams. Mia’s design lens eventually gave vision to MacAdams’s dream of making the river accessible to all. The Los Angeles River work is exemplary of how Mia has shaped her firm to balance private work with that which contributes to the community. She and her team continue to practice with an advocacy ethic at all scales of design and planning.
Jonathan has dramatically advanced building design and the experiences they create, leading to unique and unexpected beauty. His body of work—which includes projects for Samsung, Tencent, Microsoft, Alibaba, Reebok, Wellcome Trust, Telenor and UCLA—challenges client expectations and uses a combination of research and intuition to uncover compelling design solutions.
Jonathan has cultivated a learning-based design process. He views each design project as an opportunity to develop a specific idea or point of view focused on generating a true sense of community and connectivity.
Since 1996, Jonathan has worked within the framework of design practice NBBJ, where he currently serves as global design partner. During his tenure at the firm, Jonathan has evolved the practice into one built on a global network of experts with small creative design workshops that deliver insightful, fresh and innovative buildings and experiences.
Sonny Ward (Charles L. Ward III – Licensed California Architect), is originally from Pelahatchie, MS. He founded June Street Architecture in 2009. The team of experienced architects and designers respond to each project with a cohesive solution through innovative design and dynamic spaces. Each project uses existing conditions along with new design elements to develop a new holistic experience. An architecture studio located in West Hollywood, California, JSA is known best for its thorough design process that involves and informs clients every step of the way. Throughout planning and design, JSA works closely with each client to understand their creative vision and goals. Subsequently, JSA provides spaces that are thoughtfully elegant, detailed, sensitive to the surrounding environment, and mindful of the clients’ needs and budgets.
Sonny holds a B.Arch. from Woodbury University and a M.Arch. from UCLA. He currently serves on the National Center on Adoption and Permanency Board of Advisors, Woodbury University School of Architecture Board of Advisors, Woodbury University Architecture of Civic Engagement Advisory Board and the Emeritus Board for the Family Equality Council. He lives in Los Angeles, CA with his husband and two children.
Debra Gerod, FAIA joined Gruen Associates, a 65-person broad-based planning and architectural firm, in 1988 and became a partner in 2002. During her tenure at Gruen Associates, Ms. Gerod has focused on the collaborative delivery of projects, primarily in the public sector. Her work includes large-scale, significant civic and cultural projects such as courthouses, embassies, performing arts centers, museums, libraries and transportation projects. Since the late 1980’s, she has created and/or led over two dozen collaborative teams on projects valued at more than $3 billion.
Ms. Gerod has been on the forefront of the sustainable design movement throughout her career, starting with her focus on sustainable design at the University of Colorado/Boulder. Ms. Gerod is the Vice President/President Elect for the American Institute of Architect’s Los Angeles Chapter. She is also a member of the Board of the AIA California Council and serves on Dean’s Advisory Council for Woodbury University. Ms. Gerod served on the Board of the ACE Mentor Program/Los Angeles from 2004-2015.