John Ida founding partner

JOHN IDA, FAIA, CSI is a founding partner and president of Urban Works, and brings over 40 years of experience in the design and management of planning, architectural and interior design projects for private and public clients. As the managing principal for UW, he coordinates and manages multiple teams and phased development schedules for complex projects, while also bringing a passion for design and technical excellence to every project. Since the firm’s inception in 1984, John grew the firm’s reputation while maintaining a grounded presence in professional and neighborhood community.

John received a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from the University of Hawaii and Master of Architecture degree specializing in Urban Design from the University of Washington. He served as an Officer in the United States Army. He believes in active community engagement, and is involved with Hawaii Meals On Wheels, Ronald McDonald House Charities, and Waialae Iki 5 Community Association. John has served with the Hawaii State Council of the AIA, and has served in different capacities for AIA Honolulu as Board member, Treasurer, Vice President and most recently as President.

Lorrin Matsunaga founding partner

LORRIN MATSUNAGA, AIA, LEED-AP is a founding partner of Urban Works. He has made significant contributions to the firm’s design ethic and firm values, helping to shape its award-wining portfolio of civic, community, housing/residential, educational and transportation projects. Commissions of note include the Smithsonian Institution SMA Base Facility, Honolulu Fire Department Headquarters, Omidyar K-1 Neighborhood, Hanahau‘oli Po‘e Classroom/Administration Building, and music/student center buildings at Sacred Hearts Academy.

Lorrin received a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Washington and worked professionally at several highly recognized firms in Seattle prior to returning to Hawaii in 1982. He has taught at the UH School of Architecture, and has served as studio critic and mentor for the UHSA’s practicum program. He has been active in the American Institute of Architects, having served as AIA Honolulu President, Hawaii Architect editorial board member and design awards co-chair.

A guiding principle in his work spanning over 30 years is the belief that design requires a rigorous search for creative and appropriate solutions to satisfy the needs of real people, responding to unique site circumstance and guided by strong office-wide ethics. A measure of the firm’s success and its value to clients is the degree to which solutions have resulted in building sustainable and humane environments.

Vu Le  associate

VU LE is a project designer and associate involved in transit design, educational/institutional projects and LEED requirement consulting who excels at design and producing construction documents that meet the expectations of clients and users alike. His role at UW consists of meetings with owner representatives to formulate program requirements that satisfy the clientele base being reached. After designs are generated, he works closely with contractors and consultants to assure building and design quality throughout the construction process.

Vu graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Kentucky College of Architecture, and gained his early work experience doing commercial projects in Texas and educational design & institutional work before moving to Hawaii to work in hospitality design. His project experience includes stadiums, arenas, auditoriums, hotels, apartment buildings and offices, specialized technical buildings and classroom buildings in Texas, Korea, Taiwan, mainland China, and Hawaii. Vu is also LEED AP BD&C certified and contributes to the UW philosophy of sustainable design by incorporating his LEED expertise to create spaces that encourage green design and sustainability.

Noelle Yempuku

NOELLE YEMPUKU, Assoc. AIA, Project Designer, defines her accomplishments based on their benefit to her community. Born and raised in Hawaiʻi, where ecological and environmental integrity is a fundamental part of its make-up and ethos, she is equally interested in helping to create socially responsible design solutions and thoughtful development worldwide. Dedicated to the spirit of the land ʻaloha ʻāina, Noelle believes in the importance of cultural identity, a commitment that drives her orientation as a designer.

Noelle graduated with a Doctorate in Architecture from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in 2017. Her dissertation subject was about researching the Native Hawaiian worldview and applying a whole systems approach to modern day planning, architecture, and design. She has worked on memorials, athletic complexes, healthcare, hospitality, and residential projects.

Raquel Woo

RAQUEL N.G. WOO, D.Arch, joined Urban Works in 2020 as a Project Architect. Her work experience includes retail, tenant improvement, commercial, education, and historic preservation projects with firms in Honolulu, Boston, and Seattle. After living in Seattle for nine years, she is excited to be back in Honolulu serving the communities of her hometown and state.

Raquel earned her Doctor of Architecture degree from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Inspired by her lifelong affinity for creative people and places, her doctoral dissertation looked at the significance of arts and cultural districts in fortifying regional identity and offered ways for creative communities to steward their built environments through changing times.

Aiko Tells

AIKO TELLS, Assoc. AIA, BEnvD, graduated with her Bachelor of Environmental Design degree from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in 2022. During her studies, she was an undergraduate teaching assistant and a Graphic Designer in Building Science for the Environmental Research and Design Lab at UHM School of Architecture during her fourth and final year.

As a new designer in the architecture field, she advocates for creating healthy connections between people and the environment through culturally aware and sustainable designs. Throughout school, she gained a passion for community-based projects and hopes to develop core/design skills that can contribute to better the community around her. She joined Urban Works soon after graduation as a Project Designer and looks forward to learning and contributing as much as she can to the UW team and community.

Jessa Dela Cruz

JESSA DELA CRUZ, BEnvD, recently joined the team in the Fall of 2022 as a Junior Designer. Jessa was born and raised in Hawaiʻi, and always felt a responsibility towards taking care of the well-being of her community. Throughout high school and college, she was an active member of her community but always searched for more ways she can improve the quality of life for those around her. This led to Jessa’s discovery of architecture and design, which opened her eyes to a new perspective on the world.

Jessa earned her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Design from the University of Hawaii at Manoa School of Architecture where she developed a multitude of personal values such as understanding the interconnected relationship between humans and the built environment. Jessa strongly believes that a person’s physical environment can negatively and positively influence their overall quality of life and hopes to be able to carry this value with her through her journey in the architecture and design field.

Scott Suzuki

SCOTT SUZUKI, BEnvD, graduated from the university of Hawai’i at Manoa with a degree in Bachelor of Environmental Design. Throughout college, Scott and his father worked on several residential property renovation projects which introduced him to the building and construction process. In his fourth year of college, Scott and two other students designed a board game that raised awareness about on-going issues of equity and inequity throughout the State of Hawai’i.

Scott is a recent graduate of the School of Architecture at UH Manoa and he always believed in meaningful design and the importance of the connection between people and the built environment surrounding them. People spend most of their lives within these built spaces and it is important to ensure that everyone has a positive and healthy space to thrive in.