Alumni Spotlight Iona Bruckner ‘99, By Sarah Courtney Tudor ‘98
Iona attended KWS from early childhood and graduated in the class of 1999. Always the artist, she was seen frequently with charcoal smudges on her fingers and her trademark paint brush or pointed sticks tying up her white-blond hair. “Free spirit” may have been a familiar descriptor, but she surprised many of her peers when she revealed her incredible focus and passion for the more buttoned-up title of “Architect” for her career.
I had the privilege of attending high school and college with Iona where I saw her throw herself wholly into her passions. She was the first person that came to mind when I thought of doing an alumni spotlight for this month.
Here’s a brief recap of what Iona’s been up to since KWS. She graduated with a B.A. in Architecture from Bennington and went on to receive her Masters of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. She then spent 2 and a half years as an Architecture Intern at the Philadelphia firm Re:Vision. From there, she went on to teach at Philadelphia University as an Adjunct Professor of Architecture, focusing on Sustainable Technologies in Architecture.
Iona’s first big project was a dream job for her. She had always loved art spaces, having spent so much time at Bennington’s award-winning art space, VAPA (for Visual and Performing Arts) as a college student. She jumped at the chance to work at a new Performing Arts school with a big International Firm in Houston. The final project was 5 stories tall and a full city block in size, housing music, creative writing, and visual and performing arts.
Projects these days are a bit more intimate for Iona. She is a busy mom of 2 young boys and she focuses her efforts on a small boutique firm of about 20-30 architects. She is still drawn to designing schools, theaters, art facilities, and churches. Her current project is a 3-story facility of studios with ceramics and digital arts.
Iona is known for her concept sketches that resolve complex problems in unique ways. She attributes much of this out-of-the-box thinking to her time at Kimberton. “As Waldorf students, we were very used to considering the big picture, and, in many ways, Architecture is the ideal pursuit for a Waldorf student. You are quite adept at pre-visualizing solutions where nothing has existed before.”
For example, on a recent project, she was presented with only a site map. The main feature of the landscape was a hill. In this case, she had to pre-visualize which direction the building would face. Of all submissions, her model was chosen because of how the building interacts with the landscape. This is something 12th-grade classes consider in-depth during their History through Architecture block and on their trip to Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Fallingwater.”
When asked about what she appreciates most when looking back at her school experience at KWS, Iona remarks how lucky we were to learn and exist in beautifully thought-out spaces where the human experience was considered and we could be surrounded by art and beauty. She also values the big picture and interdisciplinary approaches to learning. It’s no surprise that Iona often looks at larger social issues in her work through the lens of her art form. As a Community Designer, Iona facilitated discussions on Design Justice through Community Engagement and Social Justice through Community Design. She continues to look at her work from all angles and will be forever inspired by how people live, work, and interact with the spaces she designs.