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Allison Brown

You Can Be Anything You Want to Be!

Alison Brown

Allison Brown

At eight years old Allison Brown knew he wanted to be an architect—to help rebuild housing after the Newark riots in 1967. From a family of modest means, Allison scored scholarship money to attend a prestigious boys’ school in Morristown, New Jersey, Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, and the University of Virginia, where he received his Master’s Degree as the second African American student in the graduate architecture program.

Throughout he kept his focus, despite naysayers and professors who thought his path was social work rather than architecture. He did it his way, going on to a stellar architectural career, right out of school becoming Construction/Facilities Manager for the design, development, and construction of Bell Communication Research (Bell Core) the headquarters for the seven Bell Telephone Operating Companies. His career led him overseas where he became a Senior Construction Manager for the first McDonald’s Restaurants in South Africa.  Upon his return he went on to work for Davis Brody Bond on residential complexes in Harlem, and then redevelopment of Newark, his boyhood dream, and most recently logging in more than 16 years at the New Brunswick Development Corporation, where he is Vice President. Allison’s advice: “You can be anything you want to be; don’t worry about what other people think or say.  You come up against a roadblock, work around it, or simply go through it!” 

What's Next

A world of opportunities

Say you’ve graduated from architecture school, and you’re just starting your career at an architectural firm. Here are the kinds of projects you could be working on.

A Choice School for India

Cetra Ruddy
The Choice School reimagines school architecture in India, creating an innovative prototype geared to revitalizing rural communities and empowering children. Working around an existing rubber tree plantation, the prototype fuses cultural and geographic elements with modern sustainability practices and relies on local construction, building techniques and materials to keep costs low and the facilities durable and resilient. Classrooms are flexible and transparent, and vibrant colors and textures are all well represented in the design—definitely a choice environment for learning. 

Singapore’s Smart,
Sustainable New Hospital

Pairing Singapore’s new Ne Teng Fong General Hospital with an existing hospital was key to maintaining simple, affordable healthcare as the population ages. By integrating the hospital's infrastructure, administrative and clinical levels, architects took a big step towards efficiency by ensuring that digital imaging, pharmacy, catering, medical records, storage and training facilities are shared. The hospital itself functions like a vertical healing garden, bringing plants, gardens and daylight into each patient’s view. It’s oriented to reduce solar gain and capture prevailing breezes, and the unique floor arrangement allows for double the amount of natural ventilation. The project also includes solar thermal hot water heating and a large photovoltaic array.  

LaGuardia Transformed

It will be a whole new LaGuardia Airport. A brand-new terminal will be built while keeping the airport going in full swing. Passengers will enjoy the new 35-gate terminal, with its soaring 55-foot floor to ceiling windows that will flood the two new courses with natural light. There will be free Wi-Fi, charging stations throughout, an airport-themed children’s play area, and plenty of stores featuring New York style food and merchandise. And architects designed it so passengers won’t have to walk far from the curb to the gate, and they can use pedestrian bridges with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline. Here’s to a whole new experience in flying in and out of New York!

A “Hill Town” in Manhattan

Cetra Ruddy
In Manhattan’s bustling theater district, ARO is a striking 62-story residential tower marked by series of cascading layers with extended sightlines and diagonal movement. Architects designed outdoor terraces to enrich residents’ experience, creating connections and strengthening the continuity and movement between spaces while offering a variety of green spaces to complement the nearby Central Park. The innovative solution to massing responds to various site and zoning constraints, while enabling increased floor area, outdoor access and amplified views. Larger units occupy the top floors and smaller units occupy the bottom. 

High Marks for City Tech’s 
New Academic Complex

Perkins Eastman
CUNY New York City College of Technology, City Tech, has built a striking 365,000-square-foot academic complex for its Allied Health Programs. The complex features classrooms, laboratories, dental hygiene and vision care clinics, conference/seminar rooms, faculty offices, student recreation areas, a 1,000-seat theater, an 800-seat spectator gymnasium—all in a way that reinforces the school’s focus on applied skills and an understanding of the social context of technology to foster inclusion and collaboration. The LEED Gold building creates a new identify for the College while helping fuel the revitalization of downtown Brooklyn. 

St. Pat’s Gets a Reno

Structure Tone
An historic icon on New York’s 5th Avenue, St Patrick’s Cathedral has been thoroughly restored to its original state and equipped to meet the demands of the future. A complex multi-phased logistics plan ensured no disruption to St. Pat’s annual 3 million visitors, 2,400 masses, and numerous weddings. The effort was massive—it took seven months just to erect the scaffolding along the entrance and twin spires—and from pews to organ pipes every inch of the venerable landmark was cleaned, repaired and upgraded. St. Patrick himself would applaud the cathedral’s new “green” at the heart of which is a compact geothermal plant with nine wells drilled into the Manhattan bedrock.

Bricks and Mortar at Pinterest

Structure Tone
Pinterest may be all virtual but its New York sales office is in the real world. Architects designed a hip office space—open plan, individual workstations, conference rooms named for famous artists, commercial kitchen with chilled stone countertops, polished concrete floors, custom lighting—even showers for those who bike to work. The centerpiece though is a connecting stair, installed between two floors using geometric millwork slats, with an optical illusion look and feel—definitely pinworthy.

Target Field Station
 Minneapolis, MN

Perkins Eastman
Target Field Station in Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood is a state-of-the-art transit station with complementary mixed-use development and year-round activated public space. At the doorstep of Target Field, it is the new “central station square” for Minneapolis, inspiring a new civic identity and community pride in its mix of uses, central location, and iconic, purposeful design—ultimately creating one of the first spaces in the country to truly integrate transit and culture.

Museum Quality Dali

If you know anything about the famous surrealist Salvador Dali, you know that any museum that houses his work should be spiffy. Architects designed The Dali Museum along the waterfront in St. Petersburg, Florida, as a simple, powerful aesthetic—with a few dazzling elements. The building’s 18-inch-thick concrete walls are opened via a 75-foot-tall free form geodesic glass “Enigma” and 45-foot-tall “Igloo,” which are formed by 1,062 undulating faceted glass panes, with no two exactly alike. Inside a sculptural concrete spiral staircase beckons visitor to the galleries above. All in all, an exciting structure worthy of an important artist.

Cutting Edge Math/Science Center
for SUNY Stonybrook

Perkins Eastman
From day one, the design was a strong vision to propel mathematics and physics at Stony Brook into the international arena. The new facility, the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics at SUNY Stonybrook, represents the convergence of cutting-edge ideas between geometry and physics with an eye to creating a dynamic environment for interaction, academic study, and collaboration among the two schools of thought. A pedestrian bridge connects the new center with the existing math tower and physics building, enabling access to all areas of study. For this LEED Gold building architects took cues from prominent research institutions and innovative companies that share similar functions in interdisciplinary thinking, collaboration, and research.

Rutgers University: School of Nursing and Science Building, Camden, NJ

Perkins Eastman 
Located on a triangular site on the edge of City Hall Plaza between the Rutgers Camden campus and the Cooper Medical Center, Perkins Eastman’s design for the new state-of-the-art Nurse and Science Building bridges academic programs with the clinical experience and expands Rutgers’ ability to prepare for a new generation of science and nursing leaders.


BIG, Bjarke Ingels Group, based in Copenhagen and New York is doing some ground-breaking design work, and has a BIG IDEAS lab to explore progressive solutions, like the Amager Bakke Waste-to-Energy Plant that sports a ski slope on its roof, and its floating city concept for populations facing extreme weather events and rising sea levels.

Amager Bakke Waste-to-Energy Plant

Amager Bakke Waste-to-Energy Plant

BIG concept for a floating city of 10,000 people

floating city of 10,000 people

More Amazing Buildings

Parametric design tools help architects create amazing structures that swirl, curve, loop, twist…and in the future large-scale 3D printers will help make them easier to realize as the limits of construction technology are expanded exponentially. See Parametricism in action in Azerbaijan, in the Heydar Aliyev Center, designed by Zaha Hadid. 

Heydar Aliyev Center, designed by Zaha Hadid


It’s already happening, and is limited only by the imagination (and construction techniques).  Think 3D-printed interiors that resemble an ornate underworld…inflatable concert halls…towers built of cornstalk bricks…even invisible architecture. Check out South Korea’s Tower Infinity, which appears transparent with its façade of LED projectors and cameras that display the surrounding landscape. 

Tower Infinity by GDS Partners

Digital Grotesque…designers print out an interior. See how they did it here…
Photo courtesy of Michael  Hansmeyer

Smarter, Greener Building Materials

In the coming decades architects will be designing with new types of materials that will make for smarter, stronger structures. From materials that generate their own energy to those that provide greater structural protection, the future of building is evolving. Houses made of living algae… skyscrapers made of wood…self-healing concrete…see-through aluminum…bricks that absorb pollution…modular bamboo…blocks made of corn stalks…the updated, ancient material of rammed earth…and the list goes on.

In the BIQ House in Hamburg, Germany, besides generating energy using the algae biomass living in its own façade, the façade also collects energy—the light not used by the algae—and uses it to generate heat for the building.

Well Buildings

We all want to feel healthy and safe in the buildings we live, work and play in. The Well Building Standard® is one way to achieve that. The standard assesses the impact of a building on human health and well-being in terms of air, water, light, comfort, fitness, nourishment and the mind. That’s pretty important, considering that people typically spend 90 percent of their time indoors. See for more info.

The Well Building Standard promotes healthy building practices.

The Move to Other Planets

Extra-terrestial architecture? Its time has come. Some thinking now is that robots will use local rock that is plentiful on Mars and the Moon to build structures that can withstand the extreme—in environments and radiation…and even the occasional meteorite. Interested? See NASA’s, and keep tabs on its 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge to create sustainable solutions for Earth and beyond.

Architecture School

What’s It Like?

Students can earn an undergraduate degree in architecture, or go on to study architecture at the masters level and beyond for a deeper understanding of the history, theory and practice of architecture. Here’s a link to the best US architecture schools compiled by Arch Daily Magazine. 

OK, but what’s it really like?

And what’s the most important thing you’ll learn there? Here are answers from graduates:

The hours are crazy, but the work is rewarding and you’ll form a “family” with your classmates.
You’ll get a chance to develop your creativity…and learn about technical drafting.
Four or five years with like-minded people, the relationships you develop there are very strong.
You learn software in drafting class, and digital programs.
They don’t teach you about real-world constraints or how to manage your time.
There are a lot of fun and worthwhile design competitions you can enter while in architecture school to get your creativity flowing. One example is the Solar Decathlon by the U.S. Department of Energy, which challenges student teams to push the envelope in designing efficient, innovative buildings that run on renewable energy.


Washington University students recently focused on the concept, design and construction of a house so it could be deconstructed and then reconstructed in a different state. The CRETE House, is a 995-square-foot home featuring six large precast concrete wall panels, precast concrete floor and roof. Students sought durability, resilience to extreme weather events, and sustainability—precast’s high thermal mass eliminates the need for a traditional HVAC system, featuring instead water coils in the precast panels for heating and cooling. And at CRETE House, a water collection system and modular planters enable hydroponic gardening.

TIP:  Having a mentor is a really valuable asset…seek out a mentor you respect whether you’re in school, or on the job.