An Architect Living in Another Architect’s Vision: Dan Meis

David Plick — 

Even if you’re not a sports fan, chances are you’ve experienced the designs of Dan Meis, possibly the world’s most renowned stadium designer. His architectural visions have spanned the United States, in major cities including New York at Madison Square Garden, the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Safeco Field in Seattle, and in Las Vegas, Sacramento, Phoenix, and many other cities. Globally, he’s designed throughout the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, as seen in Stadio della Roma in Rome, Saitama Super Arena in Japan, and more recently in Qatar, for the upcoming World Cup games. This past year Meis also moved into designing homes and wooed actress Eve Plumb and her husband Ken Pace with his simple yet elegant model for a modern home.

With all of this work on his plate, Dan Meis needed a respite from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles and New York. After travelling the world, it was a short conversation with Brian Linder that led him up the Santa Monica Mountains to Calabasas, where he found a dream home. This same home is now listed at The Value of Architecture, and Dan Meis spoke to us about how this house wooed him, what it was like for him to live in another architect’s vision, and what he did to keep the narrative going.

The Value of Architecture: So what made you first interested in the property?

Dan Meis: It’s a funny story. My wife and I didn’t know Calabasas at all, and I had talked to Brian about potentially moving back to LA because we had lived in the Palisades. Brian asked me if I would be interested living in what is officially Calabasas, because there was a house there that’s really special. He sent me the photos, and I was on my way to the airport, and literally missed my flight so I could come see it and decided to put an offer on it that day.

TVOA: How long did you look at the property before you put an offer on it?

Dan Meis: Maybe 15 minutes? I’ve always loved the Case Study, indoor/outdoor, mid century modern vibe. I’ve had other houses that were similar, but this one has such a beautiful post and beam design, and a lot of it is about the site itself. It opens up onto this acre of protected oaks that create a canopy that is almost like the world’s largest living room. It’s really special. After a quick run through the house and a walk under the oaks, I was pretty sold.

TVOA: It seems like a place where you could really get some thinking done.

Dan Meis: It definitely is. I get a lot of thinking done there. It’s become my office in the woods. It’s not far from LA, but it’s so tranquil there that I get a lot done. I commonly work from home and just do everything electronically from there.

TVOA: How long does it take to drive to Santa Monica?

Dan Meis: It takes about forty minutes to get to Venice on an average day. But you’re also driving along PCH, so it’s not a bad drive.

TVOA: As a successful architect, how is your process in investigating a property different from a non-architect, or layperson?

Dan Meis: I think one of the things that architects do, and this is true for myself and my wife, is we look for a home with provenance. It’s not just another home. There’s a story to the home, and it’s the architect’s job to tell that story. Now, it’s not necessarily a stylistic thing, though I have a tendency to be drawn more towards mid century modern or contemporary. But mainly, I want to live somewhere that has a narrative of the provenance of the home. I want to live somewhere that has some meaning to it.

TVOA: Were you familiar with that narrative and Douglas Rucker’s work before you saw the property?

Dan Meis: I wasn’t, but I quickly got a sense of it, and absorbed it. Douglas Rucker is a well-known Malibu architect, and he did a few homes with a similar style. And he was a very interesting guy in general. For me, all of those components combined to tell the story of this house. And I loved being a part of that, an architect living in another architect’s vision.

TVOA: And you did some renovations on the house. How did you continue the narrative?

Dan Meis: Luckily, the former owner had it for thirty years and took great care of it, so not a lot of things were necessary, but we did a few updates. Part of it is the functionality of how people live differently. The former owner had a lot of carpeting, so the first thing we did was put in a lot of hardwood floors. But we looked for a flooring that was very deep in color because of the color of the structure itself. Also, the flooring has a worn, aged look to it. And I built in shelves for my somewhat unnaturally large book collection. Every time I move I have to figure out a way to make the books part of the architecture.

We also renovated the bathrooms and made it much more contemporary. We put in subway tiles, and a lot of marble which contrasts the deep, dark colors of the structure beautifully. I like the idea that houses evolve much like buildings evolve. This happens in my work too. For example, if I work on a stadium that was built 100 years ago, I don’t try to recreate it entirely. I draw from the history, and also update it to have the modern amenities of a modem stadium.

TVOA: Is there a difference in the way you design in your personal life compared to your professional life?

Dan Meis: No, I think they cross over a lot. I may not have the budget my clients do—we may have to be more clever about what we do and what materials we use—but I think it’s a similar eye. I like things simple, functional, clean with durable materials–things that are easy to maintain. I like a darker palette.

It’s all influenced by California modernism. I grew up in Colorado actually, but the only textbooks that existed on drafting or architectural drawings were about mid century modern, the case study program, all in California. I was always influenced by stone materials that ran from the living room all the way to the patio, wood used in a contemporary way, flat roofs, square windows. That influence carries through in all the work I do, both personally and professionally.

By: David Plick

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