José Duran Montaño's journey from Bolivia to Seattle started with his love of building model airplanes as a child.

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José Duran Montaño’s journey from Bolivia to Seattle started with his love of building model airplanes as a child.

He came to Seattle in 1947 to study architecture at the University of Washington and later helped design the original hangars for the Boeing 737.

Mr. Montaño died in Seattle last Monday (Nov. 28) of cancer. He was 86.

Mr. Montaño, who regularly opened his family home to cultural gatherings, maintained a deep pride in his Bolivian roots while striving to make his mark in a new country, said his son, José E. Montaño, a Seattle artist.

“My father set an example that you don’t have to compromise your heritage.”

The elder Montaño grew up in La Paz in a privileged family of mixed Spanish and indigenous Aymara background.

He heard about the UW from a family friend and, upon arriving in Seattle, found a welcoming environment for international students and public interest and fascination with Latin America in the U.S.

Mr. Montaño was immediately drawn to Seattle’s natural beauty, and Mount Rainier reminded him of Illimani, a mountain in La Paz, according to his son.

At the UW, he studied architecture under Lionel H. Pries, one of the region’s most influential architects and educators, who helped define the style of Northwest modernism. Mr. Montaño graduated from the UW in 1951 with a bachelor’s degree in architecture.

For most of his career, Mr. Montaño worked for The Austin Co., a Cleveland company that designs and builds commercial projects worldwide, where he specialized in modern industrial design. In 1952, he married Barbara Edbom, who was born in Seattle to Swedish immigrant parents and grew up in the U.S. during the Great Depression.

Although they came from vastly different backgrounds, they were married almost 60 years, raising a family in the house Mr. Montaño designed near the Ballard Locks.

“I learned how peace can come to the world by respecting each other’s cultures,” their son said.

Mr. Montaño loved to play Bolivian music, dance the tango with his wife and host parties at their home. He also gathered regularly with members of the Bolivian immigrant community at the Copacabana Cafe in Pike Place Market.

He had a warm personality and liked to show “almost anybody that met him what Bolivia was all about and what his culture was,” said Gladys Romero, of Seattle, a friend for more than 30 years.

In his work, Mr. Montaño brought elements of his native Aymara heritage into building design, including the sense of proportion and symmetry of the pre-Inca style, his son said.

One of his projects was the Pacific National Bank building at the corner of Northeast 45th Street and University Way Northeast.

At a time when it could be difficult for minorities to obtain bank mortgages, Mr. Montaño appealed directly to Pacific National. “They said if we can trust you to build this bank, we can trust you with a loan,” his son recalled.

Mr. Montaño’s job with The Austin Co. took the family to Italy, England, Brazil and Iran under the shah, where he helped design a new city focused on airplane manufacturing.

His last local project was designing a 36-acre production facility in Bothell for The Seattle Times, which opened in 1992.

After he retired in the early 1990s, he became an active member of the Queen Anne/Magnolia Design Review Board and president of the Magnolia Community Club, where he served as spokesman on civic issues.

Besides his wife and son, Mr. Montaño is survived by daughter Patricia Spaulding, son-in-law John Spaulding and granddaughter Kimberly Spaulding, all of Seattle; and sister Teresa Suarez, of La Paz, Bolivia.

A private memorial service has been held.

Kristi Heim: 206-464-2718 or