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Architect as Developer: Taking Control of Design and Getting Paid for it, with Jonathan Segal FAIA

Jonathan Segal, FAIA is an architect who practices in a different reality from most architects. He creates his own reality. Since his first project, 7 on Kettner, hit downtown San Diego in 1991, Segal has been a champion of an alternate practice paradigm for architects: he develops, designs, and builds his own projects. Developing his own projects is like “pushing boulders uphill…but worth it” he remarks. Over the past 20 years he has fine tuned his architect as developer model into a well-oiled machine, which he outlines for us in this interview.

In this episode of Business of Architecture TV, Jonathan Segal shares with us his motives and the advantages of developing his own projects. He gives suggestions for how architects who wish to develop their own projects can get started. “Just do it”, he says. He also discusses three project types that beginning architect as developers should consider. We also discuss his work as a co-founder and professor at Woodbury University’s Master of Real Estate Development program.

Finally, Jonathan tells us about his online seminar for aspiring architect/developers aptly named “Architect as Developer”. “I want to educate architects on what I do,” he states. “I want to help them liberate themselves. I want to teach people on a nation-wide basis about what I do”. To find out how to develop your own projects and take the first steps to design and financial freedom, sign up for Jonathan’s online seminar at Architect as

In this interview Segal explains:

  • The first steps to take if you want to develop your own project.
  • The three project types you should consider for your first project.
  • A behind the scenes look at Jonathan’s online seminar, Architect as Developer, where he outlines how other architects can develop their own projects.

This interview is on iTunes. Subscribe above, and be a hero! If you know another architect who would benefit from watching this video, share away using the social share buttons.

Show Notes:

  1. To find out more about Jonathan Segal’s online course Architect as Developer, visit
  2. See the work of Jonathan Segal, FAIA at
  3. Go to the Charmer on Vimeo to see an amazing documentary on Jonathan Segal’s recent mixed-use project “The Charmer”.
  4. For information on the Master’s of Real Estate Development program at Woodbury University where Jonathan Segal teaches, visit MRED at Woodbury.
  5. Architects mentioned in the interview: Ted Smith, AIA, Mike (Mikey) Burnett, Sebastian Mariscal.

Interview Transcript and Members Only Resources:

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Enoch Sears

I am a licensed California architect who loves researching and sharing about running a great architecture business. I founded Business of Architecture to help solo architects and small firms run a better business so they can have the peace of mind to focus on creating great architecture.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 12 comments
Yoseph - August 11, 2015

I’m very much interested in this business model, however, I wonder how much of this is relevant in the Chicago market.

gene u - September 16, 2014

would be great to know what date this (and all) interviews and blog posts were posted…I’m guessing Q1 2013…

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    Enoch Sears - September 16, 2014

    Good point. I have the dates removed purposely but I think it is time to bring them back. Thanks for the note Gene.

    Dom L - December 8, 2014

    This was the very first thought I had when I entered this page…

Carlos - December 9, 2013

Great stuff! Thanks Enoch and Jonathan for the interview, really interesting. I got here by Googling something like “architect going into development”. It has been in my mind for some time… And you show is full of interesting resources about this!
A reader from Europe

Robert - May 16, 2013

Thanks for sharing all the information from Jonothan Segal. Certainly an inspiring interview with a multi-dimentional architect that has connected with all the important aspects of architecture. All that stuff that they don’t teach you in school or even after you get out.

greg spon - March 29, 2013

Great Interview!!!! I gained a lot from this.
How do we get a t-shirt?

Matthew Gullo - March 27, 2013

Another fantastic interview from Business of Architecture. This one really spoke to me! Thanks Enoch for doing what you. I’m glad I found your site. Truely inspiring!

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MichaelKilkelly - March 21, 2013

Great interview! Thanks Enoch, keep up the good work.

Andrew - March 18, 2013


This is a great interview, I hope you can keep them coming. The topic of the architect as developer has been something that I have started exploring as of late. In the interview, Jonothan mentions that you can leverage you drawings as part of the down payment when dealing with lenders. Architectural services are something that you, as the architect, can provide, however how is that possible when MEP and Structural consultants are involved?

    ROBERT - May 14, 2013

    Thanks Enoch.excellent.

    Kirk McCormack - August 2, 2013

    The MEP is unfortunately a cost you will have to raise money for but your design work can be potential used as a portion of the required down payment on the loan.


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