David Salmela's MN Memory

The modernist architect on discovering the North Shore

An illustrated portrait of David Salmela.

illustration by michael hoeweler

I was a child in the late ’40s, early ’50s. We didn’t travel much; farmers had a lot of work to do. But I remember my first family trip to the North Shore and seeing the lake high above the water from Silver Cliff, back when Highway 61 ran along the edge of the steep rock face. It was amazing to think that it was here, in Minnesota—where I was from, and where everything felt like gradual hills and farmland, not like this rocky shoreline so dramatically different from the farming country. (In a lesser sense, I felt similar going to Norway and being on the mountains along the shore.) I can remember distinctly, back then, walking down to the log cabin we had rented. The lights were on in the windows, and everything around them was dark. From there, we walked down to shore. Everything was black. You couldn’t see the shore, not even the white caps of the waves coming in. But you could hear them. That was my first experience. And now I live here. I look at it every day. To design projects here on the North Shore—I feel very privileged.