Erik Johnson is a licensed architect in the state of Minnesota, he holds NCARB certification and is a member of the American Institute of Architects. Erik attended the University of Minnesota where he received his Master of Architecture. He worked for eleven years at Station Nineteen Architects in Minneapolis before starting Stone Tent Architecture in 2015. Erik and his wife, Christine, have four children.
Stone Tent Architecture was born out of a mix of new beginnings. In 2014, I left the architecture firm I had worked at for eleven years, my family sold our house in the city, we moved out to the country onto 24 acres, where we are building a new home. This home is not only a new start for our family, embracing a life close to the land, but it is a chance for me to engage, in real ways, many ideas about architecture I have not worked out in practice up to this time.
As an architect, I want to build something that has a real conversation with life and with the land around us and I want to engage my family in that. To allow architecture to be part of a conversation means that it has to be more than a picture in a magazine, more than a preconception, it has to unite with real things, real stories and real people. It has to grow out of our situation. Our beginnings on this piece of land are an opportunity to examine this and build it into the foundation of the firm.
Since beginning work on our land and house we have mostly existed there in a camping state. When we first came to the land in the summer of 2014, we lived in a borrowed RV for a short time, then a couple of tents when weather allowed, and then for most of 2015 in what we lovingly call the tent shack. Basically, a glorified in-process platform tent - a gathering place for our family, a symbol, and going forward a gazebo/screened eating area/guest camping cabin/writers shack. There are some permanent aspects to it such as deck footings and a wood floor, and then there is the tent, flexible and thin, barely covering us from the elements. Our family enjoys our time there, the closeness to nature and each other. It was a great way to begin getting to know our land. While camping, the seasons seem more real, the sun more important, and simple elements like cooked food and clean water more valuable. We treasured this time even in the midst of some of the trials a temporary and unsettled life brings. But there is a real desire for something more permanent. And we all desire our tents to be turned into stone, whether they are our dreams, a house, a business or simply our lives.
Architecture is a movement from tent to stone. The tent is the limitless open, the wandering, the hopes and inspiration. The stone is fixed, complete, permanent and grounded. When we make that move through architecture away from the tent to the stone it is a good thing, but we must still retain something of the tent, the desires and hopes that originally moved us, and the fleeting things that first called to us must still be present.
Stone Tent asks questions about the nature of architecture, about shelter, the idea of permanence and what encourages life to happen. I found this tent shack we were living in, as a metaphor, transferring naturally into bigger questions about how best architecture can serve people, how it best supports our lives, and what type of living we wanted- close to each other, close to the land, close to our work, simpler and more whole. The name Stone Tent comes from a belief that good architecture must engage and make present both the fleeting, meaningful experiences of life, that are sometimes nearly invisible, as well as the permanent necessities of concrete footings, a roof and plumbing. Architecture carries with it the paradox of momentary events joined with permanent things. The events of our lives that take place within the spaces we build are the real stuff of architecture, and architecture must frame these events with care and purpose or risk being dead spaces.
Stone Tent is a challenge to keep the “tent” present in the work as we move toward the “stone”. To continually remind ourselves of the real aspects of life. It is a challenge that when we turn the tent into stone we are not making an object but a place. A place for life to happen. Architecture is not just a question of taste and style, it is that which shapes and supports our lives on a daily basis. It lends an image to the unseen aspects of our lives, our desires and hopes. My hope is that Stone Tent will be about work that sits at this edge between the tent and the stone.