Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Architectural similarities with David Salmela


The summer has been going well for the Koop family, as you can probably tell from our low frequency of posting lately. We've been very busy!

I have had a chance to get some more books from the library, and the best I read was definitely...
It's a compilation of all of all of the architecture of David Salmela, whom I think, after the recent death of Ralph Rapson, is the most famous architect from Minnesota. Certainly, at least from the standpoint of residential architecture, he's one of the best in the country and has won many national awards for the homes he has designed. He's definitely one of my favorite architects as well, as he uses classic materials (wood, brick, stone) in modern ways so that his home achieve what most of modern architecture does not: "timeless design". Most modern buildings run the risk of being fads in design, whereas David Salmela's homes will stand the test of time and still be well thought-of decades from now.

As I was going through this book, the architectural similarities between Salmela's designs and our home project were striking. First, he uses multiple adjacent peaks frequently, just as my brother has done above our garage, and virtually all of his homes are in Minnesota and experience the same Minnesota winter that our home will. Somewhat unsurprisingly, it looks like his homes have survived just fine (without any special drainage that I can see) and the world has not devolved into chaos and anarchy :-) (click any of them to enlarge)
There's even some nice examples of snow drifting between the peaks.

Another similarity between Salmela's architecture and our home design is the use of partial wall, or walls that partially separate spaces while still keeping an open feel. Our home design has many of these on the first floor. Here's a few from Salmela's homes (click any to enlarge):
The windows on the last pic are very similar to those we will have in our family room area.

One last thing I noted was Salmela's use of shed dormers in homes where he is also using the simple gable vernacular form. These types of dormers are an option proposed for our chapel roof to let light in from above and create a visually interesting ceiling. My brother wondered whether they fit with the rest of the look of the home, but I think Salmela shows they can be used effectively. (click either to enlarge)

One thing I'm very concerned with is detailing of the interior of the home, and I like this motif of closely spaced vertical wood boards that shows up in Salmela's homes frequently. I think we could consider something like this for the stairway wall as it rises from the family room. We also have other "mission" style furniture that would play off this motif. (click any to enlarge)

In fact, this motif was also used on outer face of Salmela's newest Minnesota home, which just won the Grand Award for a custom home of 3,500 sq. ft. or less in the 2008 Residential Architect Design Awards (a very competitive annual competition with over 1,300 entries). This design also shows Salmela's versitility and shows that he's comfortable working with all types of forms.


John Curran said...

Remarkable similarities! Great minds thinking alike?

Hope you get some new and well-suited ideas for your new home.

Joe Clarke said...

Very cool. The simple yet noble style also reminds me of one of my favorite architects, Frank Lloyd Wright. He was famous for integrating modern architecture with the natural surroundings both in how the home appeared as well as functioned. I once toured Falling Water in Pennsylvania, a home that partially extends over a river. Among other features, there was a small natural spring that he incorporated into the home to balance the humidity.

I really like the partial walls and the doors you're planning near the living room.

I notice most of the interior design concepts involve wood on the ceiling. This adds a lot of interest and warmth to the spaces. Is this something you're considering?

Brendan Koop said...


Yep, I actually was going to say in the post that I think David Salmela is the "Frank Lloyd Wright" of Minnesota (even though FLW actually designed quite a few homes in Minnesota). His homes are actually quite distinctive, just like FLW, to the point where if I saw a Salmela home without knowing it, I'd say "That had to have been designed by David Salmela".

As far as wood ceilings, they can be expensive, basically equivalent to what you would pay for a wood floor (except now you are doing it in place of drywall, which is very inexpensive). However, targeted details are the key, and cool things can be done in small areas if it makes sense. We'll consider anything.


Evan Koop said...

Very interesting designs, and certainly strikingly similar to your house. At the risk of injecting my own opinion, though, I would question the "timelessness" of the designs. Also, not a big fan of the closely-spaced vertical wood slats on the stairway. Ah, well, this is what brothers are for. To each his own, I suppose.

Brendan Koop said...

Oh, Evan, I completely agree. You're perfectly entitled to have your own incorrect opinions :-)

Joe Clarke said...

The slats are an interesting look, but, I would be concerned they would be a high maintenance item in terms of keeping them clean. With all the kids at home, the wall next to our stairs can get pretty dirty since the kids sometimes put their hands on the wall rather than rail (especially when they are to short to reach it). I thought of this because of the hassle it is to clean the spindles on our kitchen table chairs, which also receive lots of handling. A smooth wall is just easier to maintain.

They could also be a challenge with inquisitive kids who might stick their hands through and get stuck.

I hope I don't seem too pessimistic with my posts that always seem to be "did you think about this...?". I'm sure you've thought of most of these things. There are lots of good ideas in the design and this is just food for thought.

Debbie (Nana) Koop said...

I wonder if you could talk to some of the people who now have lived in these houses. It would be very beneficial to hear their comments about the design and what they wished they had done different. It is quite amazing how many features of your home are in these designs. To see a space and live in it are two very different things. Nana

Anonymous said...

Nana, we have now lived in our ~David Salmela home in Marine for 2 years. We love our time there and actually have been unable to think of any changes we would have made. We asked for a special purpose getaway, with prairie views tucked into the landscape in size small. What David and Shane Coen, the landscape architect, is perfect. The house appears to be a part of Jackson Meadow, and yet is tailored to our precise needs in a remarkable manner, making it very much our home. Very, very clever engineering of the services, as well.
mike goldner