Launch Slideshow

on the boards: above it all

on the boards: above it all

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With the Q, a minimalist tower draped in glass, Jonathan Segal, FAIA, is taking his ideas for energy-sipping design to a new level. Segal plans to spend $11 million—his biggest investment so far—to construct the seven-story building in San Diego's Little Italy neighborhood. When it's finished, the two-level first floor will be leased to retail stores, the middle three stories to offices, and his own family will live in the two-story aerie on top (see image gallery for a full set of floor plans).

The Q's sculptural design is meant to attract not only boutique tenants but also the sun and wind. Its roof is crammed with 600 photovoltaic panels, and the building's defining feature—the stacked concrete overhangs, or “fins,” as Segal calls them—modulate the sun's rays on the south and west. Inside, cross-ventilated floor plans and corridors capture natural light and cooling San Diego Bay breezes. Given the city's even-keeled climate, Segal believes the building will be energy-neutral, or nearly so. He's aiming for a cost-efficient layout too. The elevator and stairs run along the building's north side instead of through the middle, taking up just 9 percent of each unit's core space, compared with the typical 25 percent. That means cost savings for tenants, who pay for their share of circulation space.

The 40,000-square-foot building, which breaks ground in November, grew out of Segal's desire to move back downtown. “With the price of land so high, I knew I'd have to put the house on top of office and retail space,” he says. He purchased a 200-foot-by-50-foot parcel with views of downtown and the bay.

Why the name? “The Q [refers to] James Bond's gadget guy, who fixed up his Aston Martin and gave him the magnetic watch,” Segal explains. “Hopefully the building will be about new gadgets and about how it's almost energy-free.” Throw in its cool demeanor, and the playful analogy fits.

RA070901022L3.jpgCourtesy Jonathan Segal, FAIA
Stacked commercial spaces culminate in residential. The adjacent black commercial building steps down to Little Italy's main artery.
Courtesy Jonathan Segal, FAIA
Courtesy Jonathan Segal, FAIA
Courtesy Jonathan Segal, FAIA
Courtesy Jonathan Segal, FAIA
Courtesy Jonathan Segal, FAIA