Six Architects with Amazing Side Jobs

Architecture is not always a high-paying profession, so it’s no surprise that many architects hold side jobs. But the six architects profiled here are not moonlighting as stock boys in the grocery store; their side jobs are seriously interesting.

Bike Maker

Joe Nocella was a bike messenger in New York in late 1980’s and early 1990’s, until he was hit by a car in 1991 and decided something needed to change. He became an architect, a life-long dream, and he still plies that trade at HOK. But in the late 2000’s he decided he wanted to get into more gritty, hands-on work. Naturally, he returned to the world of bikes!

Joe Nocella

Joe Nocella

He started by building a bike in his front yard, and in 2008 he started 718 Cyclery in Brooklyn. The shop was recently named the #1 custom bike shop in the city by New York Magazine! Learn more here.

Astronomy Educator

Mark Allen always loved the night sky. When he was growing up in England, he stared at the Milky Way while walking with his parents. As most kids do, he basically forgot about stars when he became a teen, but the fascination flooded back one night in the 1990s when he happened to look up during a particularly clear night. He was an architect by then, but he longed for a way to reconnect with the universe. He soon discovered mobile planetaria — basically big, blow-up structures that show star formations to small crowds — and in 2000 took a leave of absence to show the universe to school kids.

Black Hole Planetarium

Black Hole Planetarium

When he lost his architect job in 2008, his business, The Black Hole Planetarium, became his primary occupation. Learn more here.


Many architects are skilled artists, but not many have the vast exposure Fred Gallagher enjoys. Gallagher, who was laid off from his architecture position in 2002, has drawn the webcomic Megatokyo since 2000. The comic has been successful enough that drawing Megatokyo is Gallagher’s only occupation — he makes money through advertising and sales of related books and merchandise. See Gallagher’s work here.

Furniture Joiner

When Jonah Zuckerman got bored of his architecture job in New York, he started making furniture by hand. He wasn’t trained as a carpenter, but he picked up the craft and eventually started City Joinery, which is now located in East Hampton, Massachusetts. The firm specializes in crafting beautiful furniture from salvaged logs. Check out the company’s site here.


Architects might drink a lot of wine while courting wealthy clients, but how many make it, too? Ken Zinns, principal of Ken Zinns Architect in Oakland, California, does. Zinns developed a serious interest in wine after taking some extension courses on the topic in the early 1990s, and eventually learned the winemaker craft. He is now assistant winemaker at Eno Wines in Berkeley and Harrington Wine in San Francisco. Learn more about Ken here.


Hmm, who doesn’t love chocolate? Dean Bingham, principal of R. Dean Bingham Architecture in Portland, Maine, probably loves chocolate more than you do. He’s also the proprietor of award-winning Dean’s Sweets, a hand-dipped truffle shop in Portland. Bingham had long enjoyed making chocolates as a hobby, and he started the business, which relies heavily on locally sourced products, in 2004. Within a few years he had won major awards, and now is regarded a true New England chocolate treasure. Learn more here.

If you ever get bored with your design job, think about these six folks and dream about a new path!

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