David Salmela, FAIA, has lived and worked in his studio residence in Duluth, Minn., for the last 20 years. “Early on, rather than try to become an international architect, or even a national architect, my goal was more of a regional architect,” he says.
“I’ve lived in Minnesota all my life. I’ve traveled, but the circumstances were never to leave,” says Salmela, who is 66. His studio and residence look out over Lake Superior, and he credits the landscape of the Canadian Shield as a major influence on his work. “Certainly I would have had a choice to go probably anywhere, I guess, but I like the climate and the terrain where we live here. It’s a rugged land. It’s close to the wilderness.”
“Vernacular is the most logical way of building something at the time,” he says, discussing the blend of architectural styles in Minnesota. “But that logic is always changing. It doesn’t always create architecture, but it does become something of the culture.”
Salmela is presently working with three project architects: one in his Duluth studio, one based in Fargo, N.D., and one working from Minneapolis. His workdays are routine. “We certainly put in a consistent amount of time,” he says, “but we don’t crash on projects.”
A great deal of Salmela’s work can be found in Minnesota and Wisconsin, states that share a history and landscape. “The goal is to try to create this architectural understanding specific to my area, rather than to try to go all over the country to design things in places I don’t understand,” Salmela says. “Then our architecture becomes something that is influential, rather than singular, prima donna–style structures.”