John Lum, AIA

Principal Architect

"Simplicity yields modern livability."

Expect creativity, elegance, and conceptual thinking.

John Lum’s projects are clearly distinguished by their creative use of materials, their elegant proportions and their vivid use of color. Each project has a distinct design aesthetic and form that reflect the unique personalities of both his business and residential clients. He has an uncanny ability to make realities out of peoples’ thoughts and wishes, with characteristic restraint and simplicity.


The award-winning architect approaches his work and life itself in a direct, realistic manner. His creations are not only efficient and functional, but warm and playful. He abides by a belief that simple is better, a reductive philosophy that is not minimalistic.

Lum, who on a personal level is open, friendly and communicative, refuses to believe that modern architecture must be cold and empty. Although principled about his design beliefs, he prefers to engage in creative dialogue with his clients, as he believes the most successful project consists of engagement and collaboration. An example of what inspires him is Anish Kappoor’s The Bean.

Bean 3
“It’s  a fantastic art piece, conceptual but also structural brilliant, delightful, simple, intriguing and engaging… and just plain awesome! “
Each commercial design project, including an extensive list of highly acclaimed restaurants and nightclubs, is concept driven, bestowing the simplest spaces with a distinct personality, unique to each client. His reputation for creating unusual environments has led to a growing practice in innovative retail designs, especially in the restaurant industry and optometric field.

In residential projects, John Lum emphasizes the livability and vitality of the space, changing the theoretical into the realm of reality. He excels in creating well-illuminated, highly functional homes that are comfortable and inviting. In short, he strives for the ease and clarity of an elegant floor plan, avoiding the ostentatious.

Much of Lum’s residential work incorporates green, yet economical features; one good example being the Sunset Magazine Idea Home, a major showcase for green technologies in the Bay Area.

Although most of his work is contemporary in nature, John Lum has been an advocate of appropriate historic preservation, with many of his projects located in neighborhoods sensitive to those issues. Honored for his civic volunteerism, he is an active board member of the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society, chairing the building committee for the transformation of the Old Mint into the new San Francisco Museum. He also has been a Commissioner of the Golden Gate Concourse Authority since 2001.

Prior to starting John Lum Architecture in 1994, Lum was an Associate Architect with Reid and Tarics Associates, where he designed several elementary schools (including the Jean Parker Elementary School in San Francisco, which received an Award of Design Excellence from the American Institute of Architecture’s California Chapter).

Of what is John Lum most proud? The ageless quality of his work, the high-quality design he has been able to achieve (sometimes despite budget limitations), and the meaningful and long-lasting client relationships he has developed.

Bachelor of Architecture, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, 1985; BS of Architectural Engineering, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, 1984; Diplome d’Architecture, Ecole Des Beaux Arts, Fontainbleau, France, 1984.

Portrait photography: Robert Schlatter