In Memory

Carl Volante

Carl Volante

Our classmate, Steve Simmonds, just advised us of the passing of classmate Carl Volante in November, 2023.

Steve provided the following link to obituaries honoring Carl.

Following is an obituary written by Emilio Estevez:

A Farewell and Tip of the Hat to Longtime Malibu Resident and Noted Architect, Carl Volante.

by Emilio Estevez

Carl Volante never met a stranger.

And while that old saying is often overused to describe a friendly soul, I reckon most of us who had the great pleasure of knowing him during his seventy-eight (and change) trips around the sun would indeed agree.

Carl was born in Evanston, Illinois on April 14th 1945. Brother to Frank, and sisters Marina and Ann, Carl was the third child born to Anthony and Ester Volante.

At the age of 20, he joined the US Army in 1965 and was assigned to Fort Hood, Texas where he showed an aptitude for his precision with a service rifle and became a Sharpshooter.

His keen eye for hitting the center of a target would serve him later in life, when he traded in his rifle for a drafting pencil and enrolled at Cal Poly Pomona where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Architecture and graduating top of his class in 1974.

His influences included acclaimed modern architect Richard Neutra and Carl often spoke of his own work as an architect and builder as making “An intervention on the natural world.”

His approach to design always placed the environment first. Structure was secondary and respectful to the natural order of the land before breaking ground on a project.

He took his job as seriously as anyone I have ever known and was artist in the truest form. His work, his structures and buildings were never designed as a monument to the architect, but rather, as a contribution to a family and a community, that would stand the test of time, fads and trends and remain a gathering place for generations.

Anyone who spent time with Carl knew he had a way with words and phrases. Often funny and off color, but always full of self-effacing honesty. It wasn’t uncommon to hear him to say, “I wake up every morning and am grateful for two things: being Sicilian and being an architect!”

But as we all know, as seriously as he took his work, Carl was also very, very funny.

From his “throw away” observations to his show stopping quotes, perhaps along with his designs, they too will live on. His hilarious take on divorce: “domestic adjustment,” as just one example.

Carl came to Malibu following a “domestic adjustment” of his own, splitting from his wife Pamela after 20 years of marriage.

Carl had a nickname for everyone and almost everything. A habit he picked up from his father, a Chicago cabbie who regularly clocked an eighty-four hour work -week and who himself had earned the nickname “Tony No Neck,” due to his thick physique.

For Carl, nicknames were a not only a term of endearment, but also of familiarity and community which he found and fostered here in Malibu between his many clients, associates and friends.

“The Authorities,” of course meant the folks in planning at Malibu City Hall. “The Flight Deck,” was Spruzzos. If you possessed a medical degree, you were always referred to as “Doc” as in “Doc Taylor“ or “Doc Brown.” “Dos Pollacko’s,” the tile guys. “German John,” “Backhoe Gary” and so on.

The nicknames he bestowed were often based on what you did for work, where you lived or your ancestry. I was never sure if he ever had a nickname for me, but he often called me “Kid,” even after I was well into my late fifties.

I have done my share of writing in my life, but I have never been tasked with writing an obituary or remembrance. Which it perhaps why this reads as neither.

I’m not great at saying goodbye, as I reckon most of us aren’t. Especially when it comes to people who enter our lives, inspire us and then simply…leave.

We always want more from those who exit too soon. We want more time. More stories. Damnit, even more of the same stories we just heard two days ago, CARL!

I believe that any attempt to summarize a life lived over nearly eight decades in a few paragraphs is folly for the writer and disrespectful to the individual being written about. But knowing Carl as we do, I suspect he wouldn’t want any of us making a fuss over his passing. And if he were to author his own remembrance, it would be a series of four letter expletives connected to some grievance or complaint – probably about the City of Malibu!

But in the final analysis of a life well lived, this Midwestern son of a cabbie found our unique seaside community and called it home.

And it was in this very community where Carl Volante found his many friends, clients and partners, while making an indelible contribution building his timeless “interventions on the natural world.”

Carl lived and played by his own rules. He was a brilliant, beautiful self-proclaimed “gypsy,” and he was proud of that fact. And he also broke a good share of ladies’ hearts along his journey.

Now he breaks ours.

And as nicknames go, he’ll always be “The Man in the Hat,” to me.

He is survived by his daughters, Lisa and Gina as well his sister Ann.

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01/11/24 10:04 AM #1    

Preston Cook

Carl and I were friends in high school.  We had several adventures that I can remember and likely more that I now forget.

Carl was driving a 1954 creme colored Chevy wagon down South Boulevard toward the lake.  I was on my back on the floor under the dashboard to find an annoying squeak.  My legs up on the seat in plain view. We were pulled over by the police, they thinking Carl was delivery a corpse for deposit in the lake.  No charges were brought.

We both ended up in California the summer of 1964. John Fernstrom and I in his 1958 Corvette to northern California and Carl to the southern seaside town of Costa Mesa.  John dropped me off at Carl's apartment and he headed to Arizona State. We parted company a week or so later, with Carl enrolling in college and I off to a six month stint at the Winnetka Post Office, then off to a thirteen month round the world adventure.  Seven year later, I again landed in California living in San Francisco and decided to find Carl.  By this time, he was an architect living in Malibu.  We decided to meet for lunch at a local Santa Barbara restaurant.  Noon was the target time, and we had a long lunch discussing our lives as well as numerous other subjects.  We stayed for dinner, same table, same restaurant, continuing our conversation until the waitress asked us to leave the restaurant at 9pm. Carl, as usual, did most of the talking.

He joined us for a family vacation on Lake Charlevoix, Michigan one summer, where we took a job painting a house a brilliant red. Later, in our senior year we were told of any mischief at graduation would lead to not awarding a degree.  We took that as a challenge.  Our first thought was painting "Class of 1964" on the Evanston Water Tower.  We drove over to discover the enormity of the task, carrying galleons of paint, brushes, etc. up steep stairs.  We settled for a more down to earth project, painting "Class of 1964" on a tennis court in the dead of night. Black clothes and all.

For a short time after high school, Carl had a job in a factory, never intending to go to college, and nor did I.  After about a month he saw an older man with a bloody nose and asked him about it. The cause was chemicals used at the plant.  Carl quite that day.

We both ended up being drafted into the Army several years after graduation.  He was on orders to be shipped to Vietnam.  While waiting, sitting on a second-floor barracks window ledge, fell backwards to the ground, ending his ability to be on the front lines of that disastrous war.  Now with the GI Bill, at $175 per month, he was off to architecture school.

We connected some years later.  I drove to his ocean front Malibu vineyard and home.  He had designed a small two room house disconnected from each with a courtyard in between. He tended the vines and produced a fine red wine, just like his Sicilian grandfather, using no chemicals or additives.

Later in the day he said we were going to a party. Gates automatically opened to a small estate, also with a vineyard.  I was introduced to the homeowner, actor and film produce Emilio Estevez son of Martin Sheen and older brother to Charlie Sheen.  A large group joined in for a marvelous meal with a bunch of Hollywood folks. The next morning Carl and I drove a rental truck to the Southern wine growing region around Solvang.  We picked up a large harvest tub and spent a good part of the day filling it with plump red grapes.  Back to Emilio's for the crush and later, yet another dinner and party.  I was to receive a cut of the product, but never collected my share, I hope Carl enjoyed it.

Carl used nicknames for many, and my nickname for was "Architect to the (Hollywood) Stars".  For many of his clients were.

He was designing a 30,000 square foot house in Washington State and would on occasion stop by our Marin County home to share a bottle of red around our firepit.

Carl had a unique architectural method and style.  He would not use a drafting board nor a computer to design several oversized houses for his wealthy clients.  His method would be to spend some days at the site of the proposed house.  He would obverse the land, the trees, the views, wind direction, noises, neighboring houses, taking it all in. He took into consideration every detail of making a house livable, fitting into the land in such a way to take advantage of every possibility.  He would then hand draw the design of the house, sending these drawings to a colleague who would then put them in architectural detail and form.  Of course, redrafts were done, with a final product not only a one of a kind, but a masterpiece in style and livability.

While we connected by phone, I believe the last time we ran into each other at John Fernstrom's 2014 funeral service, in Tucson, Arizona joined by Steve Simmonds and Scott Wiscomb. We all arrived by car; Carl borrowed a client’s private jet for the trip.  A life well lived.  I will miss him.




01/11/24 03:03 PM #2    

Sherwin "Jay" Siegall

I only knew of Carl but never had much if any interaction with him. I've read the wonderful lengthy commentary by Preston and amazing, unique obituary by Emilio Estevez. Both painted a great story of a guy Inwish Inhad interacted  with. If you just quickly viewed the In Memoriam i highly recommend taking a few minutes to read the obituary and Preston's comments. Greatvtributes to a guy who was loved. So sad losing another Awsome Wildkit!! RIP Carl and congrats on a life well lived!!

01/11/24 04:18 PM #3    

Scott Wiscomb

Carl was a long time and dear friend and I’m deeply saddened by his death.  I loved him like a brother.

We were both finishing college at about the same time (he at Cal Poly, me at UCLA) and we often spent Sunday afternoons studying together at one of UCLA’s libraries.  I finished school and started working before Carl did and he often helped me by running errands and taking my wife and 2 year-old son on adventures to the park, zoo, etc. in his free time   Carl and I owned a sailboat together for a number of years and I was his best man at his wedding to Pam in about 1982.  By that time though, we were both very focused on our families and careers so we were no longer able to spend much time together.   

I vividly recall an afternoon spent drinking Bloody Marys with Carl at Alice's Restaurant on Malibu pier.  We had gone there mid-afternoon for a late lunch and were enjoying the day and each other's company so we just kept drinking.  It got to be about 6:30 pm when we finally rolled out of the place after having had more to drink than we should have since we both were driving.  Carl called later that evening to say that Pam was furious with us both because he had been an hour late for a fancy dinner she had prepared for new neighbors whom she wanted to make feel welcome.  Carl said he had forgotten about it but I always suspected he stayed because he preferred spending his time having a drink and looking out at the ocean.

Carl found his calling in architecture and was a superb practitioner of his craft.  He undertook his projects slowly and methodically and without preconceived ideas of what his design would be.  He observed, talked to others and ultimately relied on his assessment of the many factors that were important to a successful project, and then patiently allowed his often unique design solutions to come to him.  He had a discerning eye for details, which he cleverly incorporated into his designs. At one point I lived in an airy and light filled guest house in Malibu that he had designed for a couple with whom I became very close friends.  Carl had encouraged them to add the guest house on their property and they were thrilled with the resulting structure.  After completing many other highly acclaimed projects over his career, Carl enjoyed an excellent reputation among grateful clients, other architects and tradespeople in Malibu. Although he would never mention it, at least two of his projects were recognized in Architectural Digest magazine.

In addition to his design skills, Carl had an unusual ability to relate to others – clients, tradespeople, government officials, strangers, etc. – a skill that helped him develop strong, lasting relationships that served him well both as an architect and member of the community in Malibu. I used to tell him that he had "the gift of gab" and it was true - he even admitted it. He was honest, direct and had a great sense of humor, often sharing his funny observations on life and the predicaments it presented.   I recall him often referring to an older bathroom sink with separate hot and cold faucets as an “ooh ahh sink.” There were many, many, often repeated others. His personal style, humor and often unfiltered comments were endearing and made people enjoy his company and want to spend more time with him.  

Although we hadn’t seen Carl lately, my wife and I remained in contact with him via emails and texts, and we’d periodically have marathon phone conversations to catch up with one another.  We will miss those calls and having Carl in our lives.  Rest in peace brother.


01/11/24 05:25 PM #4    

Susan Spiegel (Pastin)


 What a wonderful obit, and what wonderful tributes

to Carl!   I am also impressed by the way Carl would

look around and absorb the atmosphere

before designing a home. No wonder he

was architect to the stars!


01/12/24 10:01 AM #5    

Molly McCracken (Schwarzman)

Preston, I laughed at all the memories you shared with us.  Carl would have told you 'don't forget to add this one or tell it this way.'  I remember a lot of classmates and others who were 'car guys'.   You, Carl, John Fernstrom & his brother, Roy Beh and the list goes on.  Carl a Sicilian kid and son of a Chicago cabbie (Tony) as his dad would say he 'done good'.  RIP Carl 

01/13/24 10:45 AM #6    

Lincoln Krochmal

Unfortunately, like so many of our classmates, I did not know Carl, and I regret that very much. I guess the bigness of ETHS is to blame for that!  Carl sounds like  a wonderful guy and another of our unique and brilliant classmates that made an indelible mark on the planet before passing on. The tributes from Preston and Estevez are both remarkable. As a classmate, we can all be proud of Carl and united in missing him.  RIP, you earned it!

01/13/24 02:15 PM #7    

Susan Spiegel (Pastin)

Lincoln, I wish we could "like" comments on this website the same way

we can do on Facebook.





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