To call Jonathan Segal, FAIA, a do-it-yourselfer would be an understatement. He’s a licensed architect, a developer, a builder, an interior designer, a landscape designer, and a property manager. When he didn’t see stylish rental housing in San Diego, he designed, built, and managed some 15 projects that played a major role in the city’s renaissance.
Segal operates on basic ideas: He develops only rental projects, and he believes in straightforward design. He serves as general contractor on all of his buildings, and his wife (and business partner), Wendy, manages the properties. Recently, Segal’s son, Matthew, joined the firm and is involved in all aspects of the business.
Segal is admired by architects for his design prowess and his business acumen—producing award-winning buildings on a very tight budget. Rather than seek early retirement or let the economy slow his roll, the restless Segal has more projects in the works. “This is an incredible opportunity to build stuff,” he says. “Land is cheap, money is cheap, construction is cheap, and rents remain high.”
Currently, Segal is putting the finishing touches on The Q—a seven-story building that will include retail and office space in addition to his own residence on the top two floors; a 21-unit apartment building, The Charmer, just broke ground; and his vacation home in Idaho is just about done.
What is the most gratifying aspect of residential practice?
Creating a lasting contribution to urban San Diego.
What is the most frustrating aspect?
Idiot community review groups and stupid city building department employees.
What is your mission statement or firm goal?
Business. Eliminate the client and create urban architecture one project at a time and one per year.
What is the most indispensable tool in your office?
No question, my incredible wife.
What software does your firm use?
ArchiCAD and the old-school tool of building physical models.
Who is your ideal client?
What is your favorite building?
If you didn’t have the time to design your own house, who would you hire?
Deceased: Eero Saarinen. Living: My son, Matthew. He just graduated and is learning the trade. You will see great things coming from him very soon.