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Samuel Eli Johnson | Architectural Designer | 763.742.2700 |

Hi, you can call me Sam. Take a look at my portfolio and contact me, I would love to chat.


Design a sauna interior located on a Northern Minnesota lake. The clients required the building to include a sauna room, a lounge room, ample seating, and a larger view of the lake. I began this project studying the traditional Finnish sauna experience; heat up in the sauna, cool off in the lake, and repeat. My design focuses on maximizing the rapid movement between the sauna and lake while retaining a large view of the lake and ample seating. A large glass door connects the sauna with the lake. Similarly, a glass accordion door connects the lounge with the forest.

The structure is located on a Northern Minnesota Lake Shore.

It has two rooms; the Sauna room is directed toward the lake and the Lounge room is directed toward the forest.

The Lounge room uses an accordion door blurring the lines between inside and outside

Movable seating can be moved outside furthering the connection with the forest.

The Sauna Room uses a large glass window to connect to outside.

The large window and door enables you to easily see and move from the sauna to the lake.

The glass doors and windows are frameless creating a seamless visual connection with the outdoors

Sauna on top and Lounge on bottom.

Memorial to the Forgotten

Use hand and digital representation as means to design a memorial This memorial remembers the dead who are no longer remembered. My process began with thinking about death through hand drawing. I began to sketch deep cuts into the ground and collage stark materials together. I moved to digital rendering in Rhino software continuing to test the traumatic form which carves into the earth. I used Photoshop to quickly test different materials on the form’s surface. Moving between hand drawing, digital drawing, and collaging helped me to learn to keep pushing a design throughout the entire representation process.

Generating form through collaging and sketching.

Moving between digital and hand drawing during the design process

When you are in the memorial you only can see and feel stark materials.

Upon leaving the memorial the green vegetation contrasts with the previous material found in the memorial.


Design and construct a wooden box that addresses a specific ritual, ceremony, event, or activity. Each year during the month of June hibernating insects called cicadas emerge from the soil, shed their exoskeleton skin, and fly away looking for a mate. I relish this yearly ritual so I designed a box to collect, protect, and showcase the delicate cicada shells. The process of opening celebrates the insect’s life cycle by mimicking the shedding process - set the box down, peel open the lid, and extract the heavy tray from its light wood frame. I was interested in the strong yet delicate exoskeleton and used it as inspiration for the box’s construction. A thin maple veneer is suspended in the air by pins and a solid wood frame. Just as the exoskeleton protects the cicada, the durable frame protects the thin wood veneer. The veneer gives the box a lightweight and delicate touch, informing the viewer of the contents.

Three layers are included in the box

The process of opening mimics the shedding insect

Exploded image of the box completed n Sketchup

A thin maple veneer is suspended in the air by pins and a solid wood frame

Iceland Fish house

Use a metaphor to design an architectural structure. Metaphors inspire my work. When I discover connections between unusual objects and real construction my designs become original and meaningful. Metaphoric language is found in the Iceland Fish house where once a year thousands of people travel to this market to celebrate the importance of fish to Iceland. The construction draws inspiration from a leather dress shoe. The ritualistic act of tying a shoe is articulated in the repeating pillars throughout the Fishhouse and the tension created by tying a shoe inspires the tied canvas covering.

The shoe’s tension is interpreted as a form fitting canvas roof.

Large pillars draw inspiration from the ritual act of typing a shoe. The posts separate the fish vendors.

Iceland Fishhouse modeled in Revit. The canvas roof can be removed from the structure.

Water color Twin Cities Focused on the skill of watercoloring as a documentation and exploration of architectural styles. I worked with professional watercolorist Monica Fogg to document Twin-Cities architecture and their architectural styles. I chose watercolor because of the medium’s ability to capture a building’s essence and evoke an emotion. Through this project’s iterative process I changed my style in response to the building and discovered the subtle differences in buildings. I hope to use my watercoloring skills for my future design processes and final representations.

Delicate use of watercolor on the American Swedish Institute

Expressive use of color on the Cathedral of St Paul and Foshay Tower

Samuel Eli Johnson | Portfolio  

My portfolio showcases my design work completed throughout my undergraduate degree in Architecture at the University of Minnesota.

Samuel Eli Johnson | Portfolio  

My portfolio showcases my design work completed throughout my undergraduate degree in Architecture at the University of Minnesota.