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Building blocks of national recognition

Jackson Bell

Ask Jennifer Siegal and she will tell you just how powerful the media

really is.

Siegal, an associate professor of architecture at Woodbury


University and the owner of a Venice-based design firm, has been

flooded with appearance requests since being named one America’s

“Best and Brightest” in the December issue of Esquire magazine. She

was recognized for her work designing Portable Houses, inexpensive


and environmentally conscious mobile structures.

Among the programs Siegal, 37, has scheduled interviews with are

ESPN’s “Cold Pizza” and National Public Radio.

“Everything is buzzing; it’s crazy,” Siegal said recently while

waiting to catch a flight from Los Angeles to New York City, where

Esquire honored her and 37 others featured in the magazine article.

Portable Houses use such materials as an insulated plastic that

acts as both a wall and window, and Plyboo, an eco-friendly bamboo



But the biggest appeal to consumers may be the structure’s

flexibility -- they can be stacked or added onto each other like

building blocks. Portable Houses, which measure 12 by 60 feet with an

area of 720 square feet, cost between $80,000 and $100,000.

“With an overpriced market like Los Angeles and San Francisco,

students, for example, could live there for five years and then turn

around and sell it,” Siegal said. “It’s a pretty good real estate



Heather Kurze, the dean of the School of Architecture and Design

at Woodbury University, said Siegal is an invaluable asset to the


“Any exposure for the university is a positive thing, but having

her is more important because the caliber of her teaching is an

enormous benefit to the students,” Kurze said. “Her value is not

public relations, but what she contributes to the classroom, which is


At Woodbury University, Siegal has worked with her students to

build “Paseo de Sol,” an open-air classroom with solar panels.

Additionally, she designed the new Kate Mantelini restaurant in

Woodland Hills, received a Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard Design

School and wrote the book “Mobile: The Art of Portable Architecture.”