With its distinctive form, cleverly configured layout, elegant blend of new and old materials and thoughtful detailing, the structure is a fetching contemporary ‘folly’—but unlike the Victorian version, it offers hardworking utility rather than merely show-stopping good looks.

Constructed out of humble, readily available materials and less than 2200 square feet to meet budget and FAR constraints, this multi-purpose utility building is a compelling and evocative example of functional, innovative, straightforward and enduring design.  With sustainable, high-efficiency and/or reclaimed building materials; low-impact slab-on-grade foundation; and a site-sensitive, passive solar orientation with overhangs that further shading and solar gain, it is also eco-friendly.  And with its multi-purpose, zoned spaces that fulfill a broad range of functions, it realizes a complex and extraordinarily broad program.

Achieving this kind of impact while maximizing flexibility and aesthetics and adhering to strict limitations on budget and square footage makes this structure a small gesture with a big impact.  It also substantiates an age-old adage: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.



  • Location: Richland, MI

  • Design: 2014

  • Construction: 2014-2015

  • Design Principal: Thomas L Shafer AIA

  • Project Architect: Scott Crowe AIA

  • Project Team: James Swann, Jamie Holt

  • General Contractor: Blok Builders Inc.

  • Structural Engineer: Enspect, Inc.

  • Photography: Dave Burk Photography