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Monday, May 03, 2004

Emerson Sauna

Emerson Sauna in Duluth, Minnesota by Salmela Architect, 2003

Recipient of both an AIA/Minnesota 2003 Honor Award and a Wood Design and Building 2003 Merit Award, the Emerson Sauna in Duluth, Minnesota by Salmela Architect is a small, yet poetic and witty building. Situated on the property of a client for which the architect previously designed a light wood house, the brick and wood structure is reminiscent of Finnish farmsteads, as the Merit Awards assert, but also it is an elemental rendering of "house", in the vein of Aldo Rossi.


The simple plan, a two-story building shifted in section and connected by a straight stair, locates the sauna space with chimney on the ground floor with a sleeping room on the second floor above the outdoor shower. Above the sauna space is a sod roof, it and the brick helping to keep the heat within the walls, while a series of small windows on two walls provides a connection to the trees surrounding the building.


Inside, everything is brick, wood and stone. Brick interior and exterior walls are combined with wood doors, ceiling and furniture, with a slate floor providing a subtle contrast. All the materials work together to create a warm interior environment.


But the most striking feature of the small building is the exaggerated pitched roof, especially in relationship to the connected, flat-roofed one-story space and its chimney. Such a simple maneuver - the diagonal splitting of the functions - yields a rewarding end-product. While the pitched roof's fronatlity refers to a house in its simplest, child-like shape, the position of the chimney and the two offset masses gives the design some wit, fortunately without resorting to pastiche.


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