The Minnesota Wild captain on the design character of the two places he and his family call home: the Twin Cities and Turku, Finland

Interview by Sheri Hansen

Mikko Koivu has been a clutch two-way forward for the Minnesota Wild since 2005 and team captain since 2009. He holds a number of franchise records, including for most points, assists, and games played. What fans may not know about this long-time Minnesota hockey fixture is that he recently completed a modern off-season residence in his hometown of Turku, Finland, on the Baltic Sea. Architecture MN sat down with Koivu to talk about his experience building the home and what he likes about Minnesota architecture.

Tell us a little bit about your house in Finland.
It was finished about a year ago. It was a long project; we had to tear down two houses that were at the end of their lives. Obviously, there was a lot of planning that needed to be done, since we were basically starting from nothing. I didn’t realize how much effort it takes and how many of the little details you have to work through. It was stressful, but the fact that we were in Minnesota while it was being built made the process a little easier to enjoy. We had a good crew running the project, and I knew we could trust them. We’re really happy with the home.

You chose a modern style for the house. Is that something that’s common in that part of Finland, or do you just prefer modern?
It was a little of both. The previous houses were a lot older, but they were similar in style to the home we built; we didn’t want to change [the character of the property] much. The style of the house sits well in nature. When you’re looking at it from the sea, it doesn’t pop out like a big castle; it blends into the setting. We really like that. It gives us privacy as well.

The most important thing was making sure we had views of the water throughout the house; that was one of the main reasons we used an architect [Pekka Mäki of Sigge arkkitehdit]. The house is designed so that you can see the Baltic Sea from the bedrooms, sauna, living room, and kitchen. We changed the angle of the house a little from where the old house was, to make the views even better. The architect also suggested adding a deck, which we hadn’t thought of.

I don’t think our house would have been possible without a good architect. He knew exactly how to approach the project. Once it was finished, we could see what he was thinking the whole time.

The sauna is an important feature of the property for you.
Time in the sauna is very healthy for you. It’s something that people have always done in Finland. It’s something I want to teach my kids about as well.

We have two saunas, one in the house and one by the sea. Today’s rules in Finland don’t allow you to build new saunas as close to the water as ours is; we had the old base, so we could build on that. We took out the walls, lifted [the structure] up, cleaned the wood, and redid the flooring. The wood is from the 1950s; it’s something special that you can’t find anymore. It gives you that feeling of history.

You’ve been in Minnesota for a long time. What are some differences in the houses you see here compared to Finland?
Finland has more rules for the exterior of houses. Roof materials and colors, for example, have to be pretty much the same as they are in the surrounding area. You also have to keep buildings low. Here you can have different types of houses on the same street, and you can build a little higher or lower than your neighbors. Obviously, there are detailed rules here as well, but looking at the big picture, those are some differences I’ve noticed.

The Wild have a new practice facility atop the old Macy’s building in downtown St. Paul, near the Xcel Energy Center. What do you think of TRIA Rink, designed by Collaborative Design Group?
I think the younger players on the team are getting spoiled, to be honest with you. We’re all getting spoiled. The best thing about the rink itself is that the outside light coming in gives you energy; you feel like there is life around you, especially in the grayer and darker parts of the year. We also appreciate having the locker room, gym, rehab areas, pools, and kitchens. We didn’t have a practice rink before—we had to travel to use different facilities all the time—so it’s really nice to have this new home.

Are there Twin Cities buildings, or parts of the cities, that most represent Minnesota to you?
I recently changed my route to the rink—I usually drive through Minneapolis now. That skyline from different angles and in different light at different times of day . . . I’ll hold on to that mental picture for the rest of my life back in Finland.

If I had to pick one or two buildings, I think I’d choose U.S. Bank Stadium and Target Field; they’re really well designed. The Twin Cities are also full of well-cared-for older houses, which adds to the character of the neighborhoods.

I also really like all the development going on in the North Loop [in Minneapolis]; it reminds me a lot of Europe. The Hewing Hotel is a really cool example of how they’re keeping the best parts of the old buildings while making them new and fresh. What they’ve done there over the past 10 years is unbelievable. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

For a glimpse of the Koivu home in Turku, Finland, watch the December 12, 2018, edition of Becoming Wild on or YouTube.