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‘My Paradise’ peeks into the summer homes of Finnish architects

The romance of the summer cabin fills the ornate galleries of the American Swedish Institute this summer, where a traveling exhibition, “My Paradise: Finnish and Finnish-American Summer Architecture” is now on view.

The romance of the summer cabin fills the ornate galleries of the American Swedish Institute this summer, where a traveling exhibition, “My Paradise: Finnish and Finnish-American Summer Architecture” is now on view.

From rustic log cabins to clean modern cubes, the small structures displayed on full-color boards span 100 years of summer retreats by the water, representing the work of 20 architects including Alvar Aalto, Juhani Pallasmaa, Eliel Saarinen and Lars Sonck.

The structures are portrayed — and designed and constructed — as a distillation of the architect’s design sensibility, or as a means of experimenting with new materials and methodologies. Only one interior includes bright splashes of color. Otherwise the structures are clean and spare, with a well-crafted elegance that embraces wood, fire, water, rock and sky.

For a slide-show preview of the exhibition, go here.

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Accompanying “My Paradise,” on the first floor of the Institute’s mansion, is “With a View of Water,” an exhibition of photographs and scale models of homes by Duluth-based architect David Salmela. In contrast to the jewel-box vernacular of the summer cabins of “My Paradise,” Salmela’s work seems almost grandiose in its cool modernism. But his structures are largely homes — and large homes — for the well heeled.  

As with his Finnish counterparts, however, one small structure remains at the core of many of Salmela’s designs: the sauna. And Salmela’s rival the Finn’s in exquisite functionality and resonant detail.

“My Paradise: Finnish and Finnish-American Summer Architecture,” through Oct. 10. American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis. Tickets $4-$6. 612-871-4907.