Ross Hummel Follows His Cutting-Edge Concepts Through to the Finished Result

As founder and principal of emerging San Francisco architectural firm Lineoffice, Ross Hummel is garnering a great deal of attention for distinctive residences including an award-winning SoMa loft. Having cut his teeth at the innovative studios of Jim Jennings and Kuth Ranieri, Hummel is carrying on their inventive ethos.


Having lived on both coasts and in the Midwest, what is it about San Francisco that attracts you?
When I graduated from Iowa State, I interviewed with several larger New York firms and, really by chance—I had friends from high school living in San Francisco—some smaller San Francisco offices. The New York offices were working on large-scale tower projects all over the world, while the San Francisco offices had a number of very intense but smaller scale projects like installations, residential renovations and even some speculative work. In projects like the Zoe Street live-work house by Tanner Leddy Maytum Stacy or the Visiting Artists House by Jim Jennings, I saw architects going beyond traditional, and even modern, conceptions of the well-trod single- and multi-family housing project type. There were many interesting ideas in the air.


What did you learn working with a visionary like Jim Jennings?
Jim Jennings has always been—and continues to be—a mentor to me. Jim approaches each project uniquely. There are no standard answers to questions of site, material or detail. In his office, every decision, from structural choices to the finish of exposed fasteners, is made in service of the overall design. 

How would you define your own practice?
It is a platform for me to continue the design investigation that started when I walked into my first architecture studio. The “line” in “Lineoffice” comes from that first step in this creative endeavor—drawing a line on a page. That line, and the myriad that come after, are all searching. It’s a searching for the most successful solution within a project’s parameters. 

What do you find most exciting about residential work?
I am able to work closely with individual clients. The process of design and construction allows us to bring something to life that neither of us has seen before. That process of discovery is very gratifying.


Why not design a home for yourself?

I wouldn’t be able to live in it! I’d have to design it and walk out—I’d wake up and not be able to brush my teeth without seeing two or three things I’d want to change. As a designer, you’re always evolving, that’s why they call it an architectural practice. 


A version of this article appeared in the February 2015 issue of San Francisco Cottages & Gardens with the headline: Ross Hummel.