Most of the attendees at Thursday’s breakout session “Reinventing Market-Rate Housing,” led by Jonathan Segal, FAIA, probably already knew bits and pieces of Segal’s story. “When I came to San Diego in 1984, my wife and I had $350 and a Rambler,” he told them. Now he is a wildly successful architect/developer, and the room was packed with Reinvention-goers eager to learn his secrets.

“Respect the Architect” is Segal’s credo, and he urged the audience to remember and spread the word that design has value. (An image of a pricey—and beautiful—1964 Ferrari illustrated this point.) And he encouraged them to live above or within close walking distance of their offices, as he does, citing the incredible time savings from eliminating a daily commute. “You really don’t want to drive a car every day,” he said.

Segal showed several of his award-winning rental housing projects in San Diego, for which he served as the architect, developer, and general contractor. (One of these projects, The Charmer, won Project of the Year in the 2012 Residential Architect Design Awards.) Being his own builder is a crucial component of his business strategy. “You want your GC to go away,” he said. He advised potential design/build/developers not to skimp on insurance, and to focus on developing projects in their own neighborhoods.

Above all, Segal said, do the types of projects you believe in. “We pursue this for creating architecture—it’s our art. If you do the right thing, the money will follow. We’re in the greatest profession in the world. It’s the magic place to be.” And, he added, resilience is underrated. “I mess up every day,” he said. “The ability to rebound is the key to success.”

More about and by Jonathan Segal, FAIA:


For a full program of Reinvention 2012:

Reinvention 2012 will be viewable soon online at:

To view last year’s Reinvention sessions: