written by:
March 17, 2010

Architect Jim Garrison of Brooklyn-based Garrison Architects was asked to design a lakeside retreat for visiting families at a boarding school for troubled teens, Star Commonwealth, in Albion, Michigan. To drastically reduce academic interruption and cut site noise, Garrison decided early on to create an 1,100-square-foot modular building dubbed Koby, with two bedrooms on opposite sides of the structure and a common dining area in the middle “as a therapeutic space for families to gather and eat together.” The retreat, which was manufactured by Kullman Buildings (founded in 1927 for the purpose of building prefab steel-and-glass diners), takes on an X formation, with one end of the X equipped with floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the water. “It’s quite a bucolic site,” says Garrison. “We related the building to both the lake and the gentle slope of the land, and created an opening in the center of the X that makes the building seem larger and allows reflective light in."

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The living area overlooking the lake includes a banquette that seats eight and sleeps three, upholstered with a fully compostable Climatex Lifecycle fabric. A low-slung horizontal side window allows a sliver of light in yet retains privacy.
The living area overlooking the lake includes a banquette that seats eight and sleeps three, upholstered with a fully compostable Climatex Lifecycle fabric. A low-slung horizontal side window allows a sliver of light in yet retains privacy.
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The architect designed the building in an X formation, with two main modular structures united by a passageway. The living and sleeping areas were placed at opposite ends of the space to allow for privacy and “to allow the children to continue their auton
The architect designed the building in an X formation, with two main modular structures united by a passageway. The living and sleeping areas were placed at opposite ends of the space to allow for privacy and “to allow the children to continue their autonomous relationship with their parents on their way to self-reliance,” he notes.
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The entrance module is smaller than the second module, which contains more living space. At top is a rooftop observation deck, accessed via an exterior stair; beneath is a small basement room, which provides more space for recreation and storage.
The entrance module is smaller than the second module, which contains more living space. At top is a rooftop observation deck, accessed via an exterior stair; beneath is a small basement room, which provides more space for recreation and storage.
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The stainless-steel-and-maple kitchen, which was completely pre-built as part of the module before being plopped onto the site, has a Flor-Gres recycled porcelain tile floor.
The stainless-steel-and-maple kitchen, which was completely pre-built as part of the module before being plopped onto the site, has a Flor-Gres recycled porcelain tile floor.
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The entrance ramp leads to the smaller module, containing a bedroom, a bathroom and a rooftop observation deck; the module at right includes a bedroom, bathroom, the kitchen and the living area.
The entrance ramp leads to the smaller module, containing a bedroom, a bathroom and a rooftop observation deck; the module at right includes a bedroom, bathroom, the kitchen and the living area.
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The table in the common area, which continues the FSC-certified maple used throughout the interior, is mostly used for dining and serves as the hub of the house.
The table in the common area, which continues the FSC-certified maple used throughout the interior, is mostly used for dining and serves as the hub of the house.
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The cross-section of the X, just off the kitchen, is outfitted with a cantilevered multi-use table and topped by a glass connector above. “This makes the building seem larger, allows the outside to come in and makes for an interesting situation architectu
The cross-section of the X, just off the kitchen, is outfitted with a cantilevered multi-use table and topped by a glass connector above. “This makes the building seem larger, allows the outside to come in and makes for an interesting situation architecturally,” says Garrison.
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“Water visually fills the void between the two modules,” says Garrison, who designed the view sides of the building to jut out toward the lake.
“Water visually fills the void between the two modules,” says Garrison, who designed the view sides of the building to jut out toward the lake.
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The retreat, which was manufactured by Kullman Buildings (founded in 1927 for the purpose of building prefab steel-and-glass diners), takes on an X formation, with one end of the X equipped with floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the water. “It’s
The retreat, which was manufactured by Kullman Buildings (founded in 1927 for the purpose of building prefab steel-and-glass diners), takes on an X formation, with one end of the X equipped with floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the water. “It’s quite a bucolic site,” says Garrison. “We related the building to both the lake and the gentle slope of the land, and created an opening in the center of the X that makes the building seem larger and allows reflective light in.”
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Architect Jim Garrison of Brooklyn-based Garrison Architects was asked to design a retreat for visiting families on an idyllic lakeside expanse of land at a boarding school for troubled teens, Star Commonwealth in Albion, Michigan. To drastically reduce a
Architect Jim Garrison of Brooklyn-based Garrison Architects was asked to design a retreat for visiting families on an idyllic lakeside expanse of land at a boarding school for troubled teens, Star Commonwealth in Albion, Michigan. To drastically reduce academic interruption and cut site noise, Garrison decided early on to create an 1,100-square-foot modular building dubbed Koby, with two bedrooms on opposite sides of the structure and a common dining area in the middle “as a therapeutic space for families to gather and eat together.”
Project 
Koby Cottage

Manufactured entirely offsite at Kullman’s 180,000-square-foot factory in New Jersey, the building was placed on its concrete foundation in one day.

With the students’ well-being in mind, Garrison employed healthy, high-quality FSC-certified maple for the floor, ceiling and walls, cedar for the exterior, recycled porcelain floor tile, an EcoSmart alcohol-burning fireplace, high-recycled tubular steel framing and low-E coating glass. “We define health as the obvious physical qualities of good air and cleanliness, but health is also a matter of attitude, sunlight, cognition and sensory release all working together,” says Garrison. “A California utility company did a study in which they measured cognition in different classroom settings, and found that cognition increased 7 percent with natural light, and 15 percent with natural light with a view. We think of health as a baseline issue, but it has great deal to do with the quality of our environment.”

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