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Meet John Umbanhowar of Hughes Umbanhowar Architects in Venice

Today we’d like to introduce you to John Umbanhowar.

John, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was raised in Minnesota and Idaho, born on the east coast. I attended Carleton College as an art history major, and it was through my studies that I learned to not only appreciate the talents, vision, and bravery of incredible artists, but that I should be confident in my own ideas and opinions about the works I was studying.

During this time, I visited St. Paul Abbey in Collegeville, MN, which houses many structures designed by Marcel Breuer. My experiences both within and without this Bauhaus masterpiece, convinced me that a career in Architecture and design would allow me utilize my particular talents in the best way possible.

After graduation, I moved to the West Coast in order to pursue my Master’s Degree at Sci-Arc, Los Angeles, where I met Scott Hughes, with whom I am now partner at Hughesumbanhowar Architects, in Hobe Sound, Florida and Los Angeles, California.

Has it been a smooth road?
Architecture and design are fields that are in constant motion, and it takes a long time to build a portfolio of projects, and a long time to build a reputation within what is an extremely competitive profession. The biggest challenges I faced – at least initially – were learning to be patient with my professional progress, confident in my skills and my vision, and to develop a consistency of process that we, as Firm, can now replicate consistently. I have to say, having a Partner certainly helped in this regard and I owe a lot to my good fortune of teaming up with Scott relatively early in my career.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Hughesumbanhowar Architects – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Hughesumbanhowar Architects has offices in Florida and Los Angeles, and those two bases of operations have had a large impact on how, where, and what we design. In Florida, where we were just recognized as “Firm of the Year” from the AIATC. We are fortunate to have many Clients who live directly on the Ocean, so a good number of our Houses have not only complex designs in terms of safety, structural integrity, and of course, beauty, but also complex permitting, zoning processes, and land-use considerations. We, as a Firm, pride ourselves in our local knowledge, our creativity in terms of all these issues, and the processes we have in place that make each phase of construction as seamless as possible for each of our Clients.

Regarding our Los Angeles office, I have the opportunity to design for Clients who share my appreciation for the Area’s Mid-Century architectural heritage – this includes both new construction and renovation/preservation. My location also affords me easy access to the Western mountains, and I would say that our experiences in Florida and LA have allowed us to expand our use of advanced technology and building techniques to different, often demanding, building sites, and with the ability to make the location the star of the show.

Lastly, I like to think we are known for our restraint; homes we design never overshadow the natural beauty of any location or neighborhood. We aim to create structures that eschew literal or figurative signs of over-reaching.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include a shameless plug for “21 Projects,” our recently self-published visual anthology of our most notable designs, and which is available on Amazon.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Of course, the weather is hard to beat; when I travel to Florida I really have a hard time with the humidity! In all seriousness, I have lived here a long time, and I appreciate that I have been able to find a group of colleagues and friends with whom I don’t allow agree, but with whom I can always have an interesting conversation. LA is known for being a City of transplants and/or temporary residents, but I have not found that to be completely true.

On the downside – and I don’t think this is LA-specific – I find it frustrating that so much real estate, art, or anything of interest, really, has become just so expensive – physically unattainable(only virtually attainable) for much of the population, and so I worry about the social effects of this asset-price “inflation” down the road.


Contact Info:

  • Address: 218 Horizon Avenue
    Venice, California 90291
  • Website:
  • Phone: 310-399-5757
  • Email:

Image Credit:
Kayne Griffin Corcoran
Flying Studio
Big Timber Reserve

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