salmela architect, duluth, minn.

The design of this house nestled between pond and marsh is all about controlling views. The site looks remote, but the hitherto “unbuildable” lot is actually wedged into a cluster of homes ringing a communal pond. A dark plinth, made from custom-fabricated oversized concrete blocks, anchors two ethereal white boxes to the ground. Despite the apparent heft of the structure, says David Salmela, FAIA, what he's designed is essentially a glass house.

There are windows everywhere, he explains, worked in around the concrete block and glulam columns. And they're strategic—glazed end pieces use vertical wood slats to subtly obscure views. Where necessary, the view is blocked entirely—Galvalume-clad walls on the building's long axis provide privacy from a too-close neighbor. Our judges praised this dance of solid and void for its “halting, mysterious quality. It's not about the tectonics, it's about the Scandinavian aura of light.” The architecture may be bold, but Salmela wanted the structure to rest humbly on its verdant site. Only one tree was sacrificed, despite a footprint that spans setbacks from edge to edge. Eco-conscious materials—concrete block with flyash, SIPs, reclaimed cypress, and insulated glass—create a simple kit of parts elegantly assembled. Inside, golden-hued wood floors and trim imbue the minimalist space with welcoming warmth.

Salmela credits Minnesota's Scandinavian roots for the ready acceptance of contemporary designs such as his. “Architecture should have a purity and cleanness to it, but it doesn't need to be cool,” he says.

principal in charge: David Salmela, FAIA, SALMELA ARCHITECT
project architect: Carly Coulson, AIA, SALMELA ARCHITECT
general contractor: Kevin Streeter, Streeter & Asssociates, Wayzata, Minn.
landscape architect: Shane Coen, Coen+Partners, Minneapolis
project size: 2,300 square feet
site size: 0.5 acre
construction cost: $233 per square foot
photography: Petro Petrovich

product specs
bathroom plumbing fittings:Dornbracht Americas; bathroom plumbing fixtures:Duravit USA; countertops, kitchen cabinets:Valcucine; dishwasher:Fisher & Paykel Appliances; entry doors, windows:H Window Co.; exterior siding: BIEC International (Galvalume), Duluth Timber Co.; fireplace/wood stove:Buckley Rumford Co.; garage and interior doors, interior paneling:Streeter & Associates; lighting fixtures:Tech Lighting; paints/stains:Cabot; refrigerator:Liebherr; skylights/roof windows:VELUX-America