In today’s society, with advancing technology, the distinctions between work and other aspects of daily life, so clear since the Industrial Revolution, have melted away. E-mail, the Internet, and PDAs make doing business from home, or anywhere else, exceedingly easy. Yet modern conveniences pose a challenge, as well: How do we maintain the quality of our lives when work is just a keystroke away?
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In his own live/work residence, David Salmela, FAIA, resolves this issue for himself by reaching back to a preindustrial lifestyle, integrating his own living and working spaces into one program. “This suits the way I function,” says Salmela, “to be one step from work and one step from home.” Though he takes full advantage of what technology has to offer, allowing his two outside employees to work virtually from their own residences while he, his wife, and another architect work from his offices, he maintains the boundaries of home. He accomplishes this in the house he built for himself as part of a small urban development in Duluth, Minnesota, on a site that had long been considered unusable.
Known as the San Francisco of Minnesota, Duluth’s downtown hugs the banks of Lake Superior, extending up a steep hill on the westernmost point of the north shore of the lake, creating building sites with precipitous grades and magnificent water views. A swath of public land projects from the lake up this hill, the original site of an incline rail system built in the late 1800s to get people with their horses and carriages up to the top. The railroad’s life ended tragically and abruptly after 48 years, when a hotel at the top caught fire, igniting a rail car, which raced down the hill crashing into the station at the bottom.
The land upon which the railroad was built lay dormant for many years, but when a 1-acre property adjacent to it came up for sale, one of Salmela’s clients eagerly purchased it, seeing a chance to revitalize the area and establish a home for her family in one of several houses planned for the site. Acting as developer and hiring Salmela as designer, the client decided to create three residences that would share a design vocabulary to bind the houses both to one another and to the surrounding working-class neighborhood.
At the beginning, Salmela did not realize he would live in one of the houses; at the time, he was content with his existing home. “We were satisfied with our 1922 house near a cascading creek and found many reasons not to move. Finally we came to our senses and took a risk.”
David D.Salmela, FAIA
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