In the decade since the start of the financial crisis, there has been an explosion in the number of architectural practices that have pursued unusual and ingenious business models—among the most popular of which is the concept of the developer-architect, who serves as their own client. With his architecture firm and development company JSa, Javier Sanchez has been proving this concept since long before the financial crisis hit. In the latest interview of his City of Ideas series—and the third of his interviews with Mexican architects after Enrique Norten, Alberto Kalach and Mauricio Rocha and Gabriela Carrillo—Vladimir Belogolovsky speaks to Sanchez about the benefits of working as one’s own client and how JSa leverages its business model to improve the city.
Vladimir Belogolovsky: You are often described as a developer first and an architect second. Is that accurate? How do you see yourself?
Javier Sanchez: Well, I started as a developer and I became an architect as a consequence. In fact, in the beginning, I only worked as a developer. Now about three-quarters of our projects are for other clients and only a quarter we develop ourselves. I think of development as a tool that enables me to do my architecture. This is what I learned directly from my father’s partner who, apart from heading their architecture studio, worked on small-scale development projects on his own, in partnership with investors. He was both an architect and client, which was intriguing to me. In a way, it was almost like being an artist, since artists don’t usually have clients. I like the idea that an architect can face himself and the project directly without having a client.