We had the good fortune of connecting with Daniel Monti and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Daniel, what inspires you?
My love of architecture and the way that buildings shape spaces started when I was quite young. I had the benefit of living and traveling in a very diverse set of countries – 7 countries across Europe, the Americas, Southeast Asia and Western Asia before I was 18 – so I was exposed to food, culture, architecture, fashion and art as a child. The introduction I gained as a child to what others might think of as “different” seemed ordinary to me. As a kid you only know what you experience, so moving all of the time, seeing different people and eating unusual food all seemed normal, but in retrospect I think it set the stage for what I am inspired by today, which translates most directly to my architecture practice. While I’ve continued to travel in my later years, I find that every time I go to a new place, eat a new type of food, watch people of a different cultural background interact, I pay attention and almost study what’s happening. I intuitively draw insights about styles of living, gathering, relaxing, playing, and it becomes a vault of ideas – layouts, styles, even materials, that stimulate my design thinking. A good example of this was a trip to Spain I took a couple of years ago to the northern reaches of the country. While driving along the coast, actually from Southern France down to the Basque country, I stopped at a museum dedicated to Balenciaga, the fashion designer. While others were admiring the dresses for their extravagance, the famous women that wore them, and maybe their innovative looks for their time, I was mesmerized by the pleating, proportions, and fabrication. That visit has continued to inspire me, even years later.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
The architecture of my practice, Modal Design, is rooted in authenticity: to location, to materials, and most importantly to my clients and their lifestyles and personalities. What sets us apart is that we’re a boutique firm that very deliberately focuses on individuals, their goals and their projects in a concentrated way. Before I started my own practice I worked in small and medium sized firms that were always juggling projects and priorities, and constantly trying to grow larger and get more…of everything. My interest isn’t in having more and growing bigger, but on delivering the very best architecture possible. I think that’s what I’m most proud of in my practice; that we produce informed, sophisticated, original, timeless designs. We do that because we care about every project and every client as it and they were a family member. We never just “phone it in,” or recycle designs from past projects, and we work through the process and relationships with dedication and focus. We certainly try to achieve excellence (and maybe perfection) on every project, and we do that by continuously asking if a solution supports a bigger concept or vision, if it’s the best or most effective design move, if it’s the right thing for the site, and if it works for the client and their budget. Has this been easy? Definitely not. Southern California is a mecca for architects, so finding your voice or platform, and finding clients that are the right fit is a constant struggle. Overcoming the struggle has meant taking time to educate clients on what good architecture is, why it matters, and what the tradeoffs are of spending money and not spending money. Once you do succeed and you have a client who engages but also trusts the process, it’s all totally worth it.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Day One: Pasadena/Altadena – Rose Bowl, Art Center College of Design, Greene and Greene homes; Norton Simon Museum, then up to Gregory Ain homes. In between we would pick up some spring rolls at Paper Rice and drive up to the top of Mt Wilson to see LA from a different point of view. Or stop by Triple Beam Pizza and stroll the shops by the pizza joint. Day Two: Downtown/Arts District – Disney Concert Hall, Broad Museum, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Bradbury Bldg, stop in at Grand central Market, then visit and have lunch at Hauser Wirth Schimmel Day Three: Venice/Santa Monica- Drive the streets to see all the modern houses in Venice which would include a few Modal Design Projects. Stroll up the Venice Boardwalk then have lunch at Uovo. We would end the day with a drive up PCH to Malibu.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I dedicate this Shoutout to my parents. Not only have they always been unconditionally supportive, but they were the reason we lived around the world and I experienced what some might consider an unconventional childhood. For that I am eternally grateful. My father worked for an exploration company that required us to move every two years. My parents are Argentine, and while I spent about a dozen summers with grandparents and extended family there, I’ve actually never lived there. When my brother, 17 months my senior, and I came along my parents had left Argentina for a position in Venezuela. We moved from there to New York, then on to Indonesia, then Iran, France, Texas, back to France, and finally back to Texas until I was out of the house and into college. Looking back on that time makes me smile; a very different reaction than when I was growing up. Back then, whenever we were told we were heading to a new locale, there was a collective sigh as the boxes and suitcases came out and the packing commenced. As a kid it was hard to change schools, make new friends, and start over in unfamiliar places. But looking back, that nomadic start was a lesson in adaptability and acceptance of those different from myself, an immersion in multiple languages, and ultimately, a crash course in the way people live and interact with their surroundings.