Brandon Allen, an architect with Renaissance Group, was raised with a pencil and paper in hand, and the blueprint for how to put them to use in a career.
It helped that he came from a family of designers; his father and grandfather own Allen Designers Inc., a supplier of store fixtures and display and specialize in retail layout.
“I grew up helping my dad with that,” Allen said. “They had drawing boards and designing stuff and laying stuff out, and actually fabricating it, it was pretty neat getting to help with that.”
Allen went to the University of Memphis for a Bachelor of Fine Arts in architecture. After graduating in 2002, he went to work for Hord Architects, a firm that specializes in designing churches.
It was work that spoke to Allen, a devout member of First Baptist Church Fisherville. He studied faith in architecture while in school, and as a thesis project he chose to design a seminary and chapel layout.
In his education and career, he has studied and applied the history of church architecture and “how you get that hierarchy of design and order, and the feelings you get from the space and the light when you’re within, and trying to create a mood or emotion that is spiritual, and bridging that gap between man and God.”
After four years with Hord, Allen joined Renaissance and has enjoyed the diversity of some of the high-profile work, from the William Brewster Elementary School in Binghampton to the Collierville Fire Administration Building. One of his proudest accomplishments, however, is the designing of the 20,000-square-foot, three-story Multi-Challenge Center at the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center.
“I’ve known (Kroc Center manager) Ty Cobb most of my life; he was my Sunday school teacher when I was in eighth grade,” Allen said. “Back in 1998, I helped him design a prototype. Well, the Salvation Army liked that design and they ended up implementing it into the building.”
Douglas Burris, senior vice president and partner of Renaissance Group, praised Allen’s work with the firm.
“He is a meticulous, very detailed architect who takes a special interest in very unique, creative types of projects,” Burris said.
Allen is currently working on a Houston-based project for Wilson Air Center that includes a hangar and terminal building, a local Toyota dealership and the Covington Church of Christ.
“Part of me exploring and looking for a different place was that Renaissance Group … offers a wide variety of anything from church architecture to hospitality to multifamily housing to office and retail layout,” Allen said. “I’ve done just about everything here, so it’s been a good experience.”
Allen enjoys the big picture and getting to the heart of his clients’ needs before putting mechanical pencil to paper to devise the best solution for them. But he also appreciates the tactile, and taking his skills and creativity back to their most basic levels.
What began as a hobby while still in high school, tinkering with his father’s collection of tools, has turned into a side business and a way for him to relax. Creations of Wood is a custom furniture design and fabrication shop Allen runs from his home. He designed and built the Kroc Center’s chapel furniture – communion table, kneelers, pulpit, chairs – from solid bubinga, an exotic African rosewood.
He has also fabricated office furniture, as well as bookcases and cradles for residential clients. It’s a skill he employed to help pay his way through college, yet he finds it “very gratifying to, not just have something on paper, but actually take part in fabricating something and making it real.”
Burris, a woodworker himself, defers to Allen as the expert. “He’s done some exquisite – and I don’t mean that lightly – furniture for churches and the Salvation Army.”
Allen and his wife, Rachel, have two children: Katie, 9, and Gavin, 6. When not working at the office or in his home shop, he enjoys taking his family to Greers Ferry Lake in Heber Springs, Ark., for water skiing and wake boarding.
Whether designing an airport terminal to be built 600 miles away for Renaissance Group or a straight-backed chair for a client across town, Allen takes satisfaction in skills amassed and honed since childhood. He looks both inward and outward to help realize the dreams and needs of those clients.