jonathan segal, faia, san diego

The taut, well-scaled buildings of this sustainably designed townhouse complex won high praise from the jury. “There's a modularity to it that expresses something; it embellishes the site and expresses individual ownership,” said one judge. Another declared: “This is one of the most humanizing modern projects we've seen today—and the best work this architect has ever done.”

When Jonathan Segal, FAIA, bought the downtown site adjacent to the San Diego Freeway, it contained a decrepit union hall and two parking lots. Rather than demolish the building, Segal redeveloped it to include two affordable live/work lofts and his own architectural office. The boxy building, clad in mild steel, is joined by three new stucco-covered volumes whose scale and simple beauty harmonize with the neighborhood. For the ultimate in low-cost livability, each unit is equipped with photovoltaic panels, natural ventilation (making air conditioning unnecessary), abundant glazing, and easy access to a private outdoor courtyard.

“The big notion is, Hey, you're divorced from the grid and don't have to pay for electricity,” Segal says. “Every single room has natural daylight—even the baths in the middle. You can conceivably never have to turn on a light in the daytime.”

principal in charge / project architect / land planner / developer / general contractor / landscape architect / interior designer: Jonathan Segal, FAIA
project size: 450 square feet to 1,200 square feet per unit
site size: 0.46 acre
construction cost: $89 per square foot
rental price: $800 to $2,300 per unit per month
units in project: 15, plus office
photography: Paul Body