Team

Led by partners and Cal Poly alum, Tom and Carl, the square three team shares a unifying design approach of inspired vision, lasting partnership, and a collaborative process. With communication at the foundation of every design, each decision is carefully considered by this well seasoned team of experts.

  • Tom Carrubba

    Tom Carrubba

    Tom Carrubba

    Partner

    Cal Poly, SLO

    Tom Carrubba has been practicing architecture since 1996, but has been dreaming about it for as long as he can remember. Even as a kid, Tom knew that he wanted to design homes—a passion that is still reflected in the work that he does now. “It is not just the creative aspect of architecture that I love,” he says, “but the entire architectural process: from problem solving and construction detailing, to the interaction with the client and builder. I truly love what I do for a living.” 

    Having developed his passion for architecture at such a young age, Tom has always strived to be somewhat of a “Renaissance Man,” seeking to learn as much as possible about everything related to the arts, design, and building. “I embraced the ‘Learn by Doing’ philosophy of Cal Poly,” he says of his alma mater, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, “taking courses in art history, fine art figure drawing, ceramics, welding, and woodworking.” During this time, Tom studied for a year in Florence, Italy and traveled extensively through Europe, providing him with a foundation of inspiration from which to begin his professional career. 

    After college graduation and shortly before joining square three, Tom built custom homes for a master builder in Portola Valley. This experience in construction proved to be invaluable to Tom’s career development, and has helped mold his design philosophy into what it is today. “The challenge of the architect is not merely to design functional and beautiful buildings, but to design them so they can be also be built within the client’s means.” Sustainable design is also a cornerstone of Tom’s design philosophy. He points to R. Buckminster Fuller’s definition of sustainable design as a major source of inspiration in his practice: The conscious design of our total environment, in order to make the earth’s finite resources meet the needs of all of humanity without disrupting the ecological processes of the planet.

    Tom lives on the Peninsula with his wife and teenage daughter, where they enjoy the simple pleasures, like walking their dog, gardening, and cooking a meal with friends. Tom’s family has a great appreciation for the natural beauty of our planet and do whatever they can to reduce their carbon footprint in order to help preserve the legacy of the land and community they love. 

  • Carl Hesse

    Carl Hesse

    Carl Hesse

    Partner

    Cal Poly, SLO

    Carl Hesse founded square three design studios in 1990 in Palo Alto, working out of a spare bedroom. However, the foundation of square three was years in the making. As a kid growing up in a rural, east coast area, Carl was always interested in art, drawing, three dimensional objects, and building forts and treehouses. “I first learned about the profession of architecture during a class project in 6th grade social studies and that was when the connection was made,” he says, “I knew from that moment that I would be an architect someday and design homes.”

    Carl’s family moved to the Bay Area in the 70s, where he later attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo as an architecture major. Here he continued to learn and develop both practical and conceptual design skills, taking full advantage of the hands-on opportunities in the wood and metal shops as well as the photography studio in the design lab. During the summers back home, Carl interned in commercial architecture firms. Here, he was fortunate to work on a variety of project types including large office buildings and campuses, retail centers, restaurants, design competitions, and everything in between. After completing his studies at Cal Poly, including a year in abroad Copenhagen, Denmark, Carl continued to work in the commercial sector. During these years, he gleaned the in-and-outs of the practice and profession of architecture. After a few years getting his feet wet, Carl was anxious and ready to move onto the “third square” of his professional pursuit in architecture.

    With square three established, Carl was excited to apply the modern design influences that he was enlightened by while at Cal Poly, studying in Europe and learning during his internship years to residential design in his own community. And while it didn’t happen overnight, Carl is proud of his work on the Peninsula, and the passion for design he’s been able to share with clients. For Carl, there is nothing better than a client who “embraces the design process, and appreciates the challenge of solving the design problem with its many unpredictable variables introduced along the way.” This kind of client engagement is what he loves most about his practice at square three, as well as the friendships that have evolved along the way. Carl’s partner, Tom, originally started as an employee in the mid-‘90’s and the two eventually partnered as they discovered how naturally they collaborated. Now, they continue to work together not only on design projects, but in developing their team in a similar fashion. “As principals of the firm, Tom and I co-manage and oversee all aspects of the office, along with fostering the professional growth of our amazing staff.” 

    Thirty plus years later, square three architecture is still rooted in the same great space in downtown Palo Alto. Carl lives on the Peninsula with his wife, three children, two dogs, two cats and an occasional hamster. He enjoys spending time with his family and pets, coaching youth baseball and soccer, as well as tinkering and building things around the house. “My work is my passion and hobby,” he says. “I get to create humanscale sculptures that people live in… what could be more fun than that?”

Meet the Team

  • NIKKI YEE

    NIKKI YEE

    Project Manager

    Cal Poly, SLO

    Nikki has been working in the field of architecture since 1999, starting out in the non-profit sector with a desire to use her knowledge and skills to give back to her community. As her career progressed, she made her way to square three in 2004 where she joined two fellow Cal Poly alumni to explore modern custom residential design. It quickly became obvious that Nikki had found her niche. She continues to explore her design philosophy and hone her knowledge of sustainable construction to this day. Outside of architecture, Nikki enjoys spending time with her two children, collecting art and nature traveling.

    NIKKI YEE

    Project Manager

    Cal Poly, SLO

  • CAMDEN SANTO

    CAMDEN SANTO

    Job Captain

    University of Oregon

  • YANER CHEN

    YANER CHEN

    Designer

    Cal Poly, SLO

  • NATHAN DEAN

    NATHAN DEAN

    Project Manager

  • JACQUIE MURRILLO

    JACQUIE MURRILLO

    Job Captain

    Cal Poly, SLO

  • SANDY LEE

    SANDY LEE

    Office Manager