Walter Segal housing in Islington, London

New book celebrates architect Walter Segal

Walter Segal: Self-Built Architect studies the revolutionary's enduring influence on self-build housing

By Victoria Purcell | 1 September 2021

Walter Segal: Self-Built Architect is a new book examining the iconic architect’s role in driving a self-build movement by empowering ordinary citizens to create their own homes.

Written by Alice Grahame, who has authored numerous books and articles on the architect, and John McKean, a friend of Segal and Professor of Architecture at the University of Brighton, Walter Segal: Self-Built Architect features illustrations from Segal’s personal archive and new photography from Taran Wilkhu.

The book reveals Segal’s unique approach to architectural practice, his impact on attitudes to housing across the world, and his enduring influence on the field of architecture.

Walter Segal housing in Islington, London

Segal self-build houses in Islington, London. Photo: Architype

Grand Design’s very own Kevin McCloud – a huge fan of the Brighton Hedgehog housing project based on Segal’s methods – wrote the foreword to Walter Segal: Self-Built Architect, stating: ‘This book is a huge pleasure because it reveals the man and revels in his energy and wit. It is also a delight because it is so authoritative, written by the two people who know Walter Segal’s life, personality and work better than anyone.’

John McKean tells the story of Walter Segal’s life (the architect lived from 1907-1985), describing his extraordinary youth, education, influences and early architectural career in Berlin, before moving on to a sensitive exploration of his thoughts, writings and unique approach to architectural practice and everyday housing.

Brighton hedgehog housing featured in the first series of Grand Designs in 1996

The Brighton Hedgehog housing project featured in the first series of Grand Designs in 1996. Photo: Grand Designs

The author details Segal’s work in Switzerland, Mallorca and Egypt and his post-war building career in England, revealing the independent spirit that set him apart from other architects. McKean covers topics from European Modernism, DADA and Berlin in the 1920s, to urban planning and his drive to design the best 20th-century urban dwellings.

Alice Grahame follows with an exploration of the enduring impact of Segal’s timber-framing method, examining how this has led to the possibility of creating communities where houses are constructed with a flexible, easily assembled and planet-friendly building system.

Walter Segal: Self-Built Architect book cover featuring Lewisham self-build housing

Front cover: House designed by Walter Segal and Jon Broome as part of the second Lewisham self-build scheme. Photo: Taran Wilkhu

Walter Segal: Self-Built Architect, written by Alice Grahame and John McKean, £45, is published by
Click here to read a Grand Designs magazine exclusive extract of the book on Segal’s legacy and community-led housing