21 Questions with David Montalba

By Danette Riddle

Although I know quite a few architects in Los Angeles, I have never met David Montalba, so curiosity and the need to write a brief intro led me to ask around a bit. “Talented,” “committed,” “wants to make a difference,” “really good conversationalist,” “someone you want to hang out with,” and “has a new baby and a really cool wife” seem to be favored comments.

On a more professional note, Montalba Architects, Inc. has completed a variety of award-winning residential and commercial projects throughout the U.S. They recently won a 2005 Next LA Design Award for Octavia Vertical Parcspace and a Merit Award from the AIA/LA in 2002 for the Monique Lhuillier Boutique (both located in San Francisco). Prior to establishing his own firm, David worked with various architectural studios in Los Angeles including Rios Associates, Daly Genik, Fehlman LaBarre and Pugh + Scarpa

David is a member of the AIA Los Angeles, on the Board of Directors, and is co-chair of the AIA/LA Academic Outreach Committee. He is also a member of the SIA, the Swiss Society of Engineers and Architects, and is on the board of the A+D Museum in L.A. David earned his Bachelor of Architecture degree at SCI-Arc, with distinction, and his Master of Architecture degree from UCLA.  He is involved with several local architecture programs including acting as a guest juror at California College of the Arts, UCLA, University of Michigan and Cal Poly Pomona.


Q: Who are your heroes today?
A: Steve Jobs five years ago, Christo ten years ago, the whole San Diego Chargers team, and to be more on topic, Glen Murcutt.

Q: What's your favorite work of art?  
A: Pretty much anything by Franz Klein.

Q: What’s your favorite book?
A: Great Streets, by Alan Jacobs.

Q: What is your favorite building in LA?
A: Building is tough but my favorite space is probably Marmol Radziners old office space, now the Griffin Contemporary Gallery off Nebraska in Santa Monica, I like to refer to it as the church of architecture. It’s such a raw, big, and spiritual space!

Q: What's your favorite building in the world?  
A: That changes, of buildings done recently, by living architects, I would have to say the Paul Klee Center near Bern Switzlerand, by Renzo Piano. It really integrates itself into the landscape in concept and detail.  Its also unique in the way it oscilates in scale, between itself as a larger scale museum and smaller scale building building in a residential neighborhood.

Q: If you could listen to only 5 CDs for the rest of your life, what would they be?
A: Miles-Kind of Blue, Dramarama-Box Office Bomb, Steel Pulse-True Democracy, Bad Religion-The Grey Race, Jamiroquai-Traveling without Moving.

Q: What would be your last meal?
A: Steak au poivre, pommes frites, a glass of red wine.

Q: What's your most treasured possession?
A: IWC Pilot’s Chronograph.

Q: If you could change anything about the profession what would it be?
A: The lack of integration of the Architect into the construction process.

Q: What makes you smile?
A: My daughter Juliette doing pretty much anything.

Q: Dog or cat?  
A: Dogs for sure, cats have way too much of an agenda & they make me sneeeeze!

Q: What’s your best skill?
A: Not focusing for long enough to get bored.

Q: Do you think it's true that architects don't achieve real success until their 50s?  
A: I am not sure; the whole “real success” bit is overrated. I think my perception of real success will likely change a couple times before I even hit 50. I do think architects in general need to maintain long careers to really effect the built environment in a way that leaves a legacy, so perhaps its more like they need at least 20-30 years to do it.

Q: What's your architectural age?
A: Adolescence, looking forward to getting my drivers license!

Q: Montblanc or Mouse?  
A: Uniball vision / indigo ink and apple mouse.

Q: What made you decide to become an architect?  
A: Understanding the power that one’s environment has on our society.  More important being able to influence and participate in building it.

Q: What do you find most difficult about the creative process?  
A: Timing!

Q: What other design fields are important to you or impact your work?
A: Art, sculpture, graphics, landscape and film.

Q: What is the most important quality you look for in young designers?  
A: Desire, dedication, and diligence.

Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness?  
A: Driving an M5 touring wagon east along Lake Leman near Vevey, with my wife and our baby daughter on a crisp fall morning. Towards the mountains! Yes, with a warm cappuccino in hand.

Q: Who is your hero or heroine in history (fictional or real)?
A: 007, prefer Connery or Moore.