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Gunflint Lake Cabin

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Dan and Caroline Mason


  • Douglas Gerlach, AIA
  • Structural Engineer: Van Sickle, Allen & Associates
  • General Contractor: Mike Lande

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Project Description

The clients, a physician and her artist-husband, are based in Minneapolis and have been visiting the area for the past twenty years. Native Minnesotans and Scandinavians by heritage, they came to us in 2006 with a request for a retreat for them and their two adult daughters. They asked for a simple space in which to live, cook, eat, and paint; enough sleeping area to accommodate fluctuations in guests and their own family; storage for canoes and outdoor gear; and a screen porch and sauna. Finnish settlers brought the tradition of the lakeside sauna to northern Minnesota and it was often the first building erected. The three primary components of the house became the elevated living space, the boat storage, and the elevated sauna/porch and deck. Responding to the extreme conditions of the site, the cabin pragmatically responds to the orientation, views, and how one enters the building and accesses the lakefront. The building was placed on the western most edge of the property in order to capture the site to the east, avoid removal of a large stand of existing cedars, and take advantage of the greatest grade change on the property. This set up a simple sectional relationship – akin to the Scandinavian precedent of a Stabbur (a place for a bathhouse, grain drying shed, food preparation, etc.) – where the main living level was raised above the high snow levels while keeping dampness and small animals out in the summer. In addition, the exterior activities of the screen porch and sauna room were combined as a counterpoint to the long bar of the main cabin. The lower level boat and ski/snowshoe storage provides easy access to the lake and to lakefront trails.
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