So long, Don Starr.

July 31st, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

On Friday I attended the funeral of local architect and Boy Scouter Don Starr.

I knew Don best through Scouting. Several scouts from Pack 300 graduated into his Troop 344. Don was a strong advocate for scouting; the afternoon before his untimely death, Don and I exchanged a number of e-mail messages about how we might improve the interaction between Pack 300 and Troop 344, to make the transition from Cub Scouting to Boy Scouting easier for the boys.

Of course, we worked in some humor along the way. (I didn’t really think I could get the Boy Scouts to paint my house, really!)

Don’s death struck very close to home with me. Don was less than 10 years older than I am and we shared previous employers, professions, running an architecture firm, fatherhood, and interest in Scouting. The parallels make me grateful for all that I have.

My prayers go out to Don and his family, and I ask that you include them in yours, too.

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Northfield Professional Resource Exchange

July 31st, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

--NPRE Logo--

Vivus Architecture + Design is a member of the Northfield Professional Resource Exchange (NPRE). It is a group of local business people committed to serving eachother and our clients by building a professional network together. Mary is one of the founders of the group and serves as its current president.

We have enjoyed getting to know other small business owners and in sharing our experiences with them. I am impressed with how much Mary and I have learned from the other members of our group. This new knowlege helps us understand each business and the expertise available in town.

Anyway, the point of this post is to let you know about their new web page:

There you will find out more about NPRE, find links to its members, recent news, and contact information if you might be interested in learning more.

Check it out!

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Kitchen A/R move in within 2 Weeks!

July 31st, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

View from Existing House

I visited one of our projects in St. Louis Park this weekend. It is a kitchen addition and remodeling that has been in the works for a while, but is now getting very close to completion.

The basic goal was to provide an open, functional modern kitchen, a larger dining room, and an entry/mud room with stacked laundry facilities. It is looking great!


The custom hickory cabinets are in place, awaiting granite countertops.

Before Photo

For a point of comparison, here is a shot of the existing kitchen and dining room, at least as much as my camera could capture in a single photo. The old kitchen was just too small. Besides, it served as the main corridor for incoming and basement traffic. The new design provides much more area, better connection to the outdoors, smoother traffic flow, and enough work surface for the Owner to cook and bake.

It is rewarding to see the project coming together!

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SD Church almost enclosed

July 31st, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

Sign of the Times

When you see a sign like this, you know something is up. In this case, it is the construction of the addition to Ascension Lutheran church in Brookings, South Dakota. Mary stopped by this past weekend to check on progress.

View from NW

For reference, the dark red, wood-sided portion of the building is the existing church. This strong form challenged us as designers. The new form is intended to compliment the existing, creating a new identity for the church without detracting from or overpowering the existing form.

View from S

This is the primary entry into the remodeled structure. The existing worship space will be transformed into the new gathering space, the hub of the facility.

Worship Space Interior 1

The new worship space will be airy and open, with an internal sense of lightness.

Worship Space Interior 2

The existing form was not the only challenge. This shot shows the careful coordination required by the existing wood beams and foundations.

We will post more images as construction continues!

Click here for previous posts on this project.

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Camp Akela was Great!

July 26th, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

Boys excited to go camping!

These guys were really excited on Friday afternoon as we set off for Camp Phillippo Scout Reservation near Cannon Falls. This was their first campout as a group, and they were ready! Camp Akela is a weekend long camp for Cub Scouts, in which they get to try their hand at a variety of activities and skills.

Our Tent at Akela

Just short of luxurious, we slept in canvas tents on wood platforms. There was also a convenient picnic table that worked great for this self-timed photo. We were blessed with blue skies most of the time, with a brief sprinkle Saturday morning to remind us how blessed we were. And I only slapped 3 mosquitos the whole weekend!

Making a paddle boat

Cub Scouting is really fun for the kids and their adult partners, and we sneak in teaching skills and building character when the boys are distracted. Here we are building a paddle boat for a race (woodworking skills, patience and perseverance).

Pony Rides

And the boys rode ponies, fed geese, saw two young calves, peeked in on some bats, and learned about rabies (and what to do if an animal is acting crazy).


A personal favorite of mine is archery. The boys shared my enthusiasm as they learned proper form and let the arrows fly. Of course, they were learning confidence, safety, and motor skills. The boys also shot BB guns, which they may have liked even more than archery.

Fishing with a hand line

The fish weren’t too interested, but we also had fun trying our hand at hand-line fishing. I love this photo; doesn’t he look like he belongs in that environment?

The camp staff did a fine job of welcoming the boys and keeping they enthused throughout the weekend. We also swam, ate well, played ultimate frisbee, sang, and did skits. The boys fulfilled many requirements for their advancement to the next rank, too.

If your son in first through fifth grade might be interested in having a blast with Cub Scout Pack 300, give me a call! 507-645-9020

Side note: While at camp, I couldn’t help but think of and pray for Don Starr, a local Scouter and architect who passed away last week. Blessings to Don and his family.

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Farmhouse Addition is out of the Ground

July 21st, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

LOUIS0601 CONS 001.jpg

LOUIS0601 CONS 001.jpg

This morning I stopped out at the site of an addition we designed in Hampton. The back porch has been removed and the foundations are in place, waiting for framing to begin.

We worked closely with this client, starting from his initial design sketches. Through discussion, sketching and 3D computer modeling, we developed this plan for a new garage and master bedroom suite. The plan ended up very close to the initial sketches, with a few improvements to reduce the cost of the structure, improve the connection to the existing house, and allow access to an adjacent existing shed.

LOUIS0601 1B2 2006-04-12a.jpg

Louis Elevation 2.jpg

This project is a good example of how collaborating with your architect can improve on your initial ideas and make the end product fit better, look good, and cost less.

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Green Building 101

July 13th, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

For your interest, Inhabitat is running a series of blog entries on green building.

Today’s post is on Water Efficiency. Last week’s was on Sustainable Sites.

They’re doing a nice job of handling each issue in a concise, reader-friendly way.

See for your self!

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