Designing and building your own ideas as an architect without seeking constant compromises with the client sounds like the perfect job. As an architect developer, Jonathan Segal lives the high life by taking the role of client, contractor and property manager of his projects, and reaps the benefits from each of these functions.
After completing his studies at University of Idaho and gaining experience at two architecture firms, Jonathan decided to start out on his own. He developed his first project when he was just twenty-five years old. He realized that, without client compromises to bog him down, he was capable of much more than he thought. Taking control of every aspect of his projects, from designing to financing to building, he gained a wide breadth of knowledge that he could put to practice.
Jonathan has an exceptional archipreneurial approach to his work, and a gift of combining business acumen with exquisite architecture. Using his architectural skills, as well as his deep understanding of space, light and texture, has allowed him to develop beautiful, well-planned buildings. This recognition of using space creatively is hard for regular developers. By applying his tenacious enthusiasm and sharp eye for location and placement to every project, Jonathan has been able to build and create great projects in urban neighborhoods in San Diego.
As such, he has achieved a great deal in the world of architecture and become a highly regarded developer in his own right. Jonathan has been awarded a multitude of honors for his work, including making the 2010 Residential Architect ‘RA50 Short List’, and winning Project of the Year at the 2012 Residential Architect Design Awards for ‘the Charmer’. He has also received numerous other accolades, including 24 State, national and local AIA awards for urban and residential design.
It sounds like a great way of doing architecture – but we should also be aware of the risks it entails. Acting as the developer also means taking on board all the risks that can arise from a project. Architect developers should have a certain degree of knowledge in real estate development in order to understand the whole scope of a project – from financial matters to the mechanics of the project structure. For instance, they need to know how it is possible to find and acquire land, how to assess which product will function for a specific market, and how to get project funding
How to go it alone in the world of architecture
Jonathan Segal has developed and designed a method for architecture practice that gives control back to the architect. He has also created his own product based on this method, an online course called ‘Architect As Developer’, which is very successful and further proof of his business sense.
These online seminars cover everything from development strategies and principles to construction loans and bank financing to land acquisition and construction contracts. After watching the foundation lessons, subscribers will gain access to ‘Jonny’s World’; a series of video updates about Jonathan’s latest projects and pro tips. The whole course is priced at around $500.
Jonathan says that by eliminating clients and contractors from the design and building process, architects have the ability to become the ‘owner’ of their own projects, directing them, and achieving financial independence. By learning the same skillsets and tools as developers, architects also have the power to take initiative and create whatever they want, exactly how they want it.
He recommends that new architects developers should start small, find a niche in which they are comfortable, and be prepared for something to go wrong. Jonathan also recommends that new architect developers build relationships with realtors who can point them in the right direction and help find available property. Jonathan says that maintaining relationships with your broker and treating your subcontractors well is of utmost importance when going it alone.
The true learning curve will only come when you really immerse yourself in the inception of your first project. If you are still at school or university and/or are interested in studying the whole method, Jonathan also teaches the Master’s program in Real Estate and Development at the Woodbury School of Architecture, alongside other experienced architect developers, such as Ted Smith.
You can hear more about Jonathan and his method and get a taste of how he operates in this thirteen-minute Jonathan Segal Documentary about his architecture practice.
Here are a few further links about him and his seminar:
- Jonathan Segal Architecture + Development
- Architect as Developer course
- MSArch – Real Estate and Development for Architects, Woodbury School of Architecture
What do you think of Jonathan’s approach? Have you already taken his seminar? We welcome your thoughts in the comment section!