Allison Named Young Architect of the Year


    GRAND RAPIDS — He was described as an architect with wide ranging capabilities and possessing a desire to achieve the highest levels of design and craftsmanship.

    And when Markku Allison was named Young Architect of the Year by the Grand Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, he proved he could live up to the praise.

    Allison, who meets the standards of being 40 or younger, demonstrating proficiency and exceptional accomplishments to the profession, is a principal in his own partnership of Schemata Inc.

    “It is an honor to be recognized by your peers,” said Allison. “And to have this one-time honor and recognition is really nice.”

    However, to get to this point has taken some hard work. Allison began working in the field in 1981 and then moved on to earn a Master’s of Architecture degree with concentration in design and theory from the University of Michigan in 1988 and became a registered architect in 1989.

    At 38 he has been interested in architecture for over 30 years. “I knew by the age of six that I wanted to be an architect,” Allison stated.

    Former U-M classmate Paul Dannels, AIA and co-owner of Structural Design Incorporated said that “for some architects the pursuit of quality is a hard and narrow uphill road, but for Markku, the pursuit of quality design is a journey of freedom. For Markku, wherever the mind wanders, and wherever energy and enthusiasm lead, there lies an opportunity to explore and improve.”

    Allison finds greatest satisfaction in residential and church projects but enjoys every opportunity for strong design. “I’ve gravitated to this expression (strong design) as opposed to ‘good design/bad design’ because I dislike how careless use of words in the design profession have subtly put people down,” Allison said.

    “Strong design is characterized by one of two responses, “I like it,” or “I don’t like it.” There is almost never a middle ground,” he said.

    Allison feels that strong design shows remarkable cohesiveness and a sense of dependence of one element on the next.

    “You can look at a piece of strong design and say, “let’s change this” without immediately recognizing that if you change ‘this’ then you’d have to change ‘that’ and ‘that’ and then another piece won’t be quite right anymore,” Allison explained.

    He believes that strong design is marked by extraordinary attention to detail, to exceptional functionality, without ever losing sight of the fact that like is made richer through interaction with beauty. Strong design shows evidence of care, he said.

    “When you encounter strong design and examine it closely you see evidence of a shaping will in every aspect, every decision,” Markku said.

    By dedicating himself to producing built works that meet the physical and functional needs of the inhabitants while making beautiful spaces, Allison’s designs have earned him numerous awards including four AIA Grand Valley Distinguished Building Awards, the AIA Michigan Award of Honor, Associated Builders and Contractors Masonry and Finishes Award and the Grand Rapids Magazine Award for Distinctive Residential Design Addition.

    Additionally he has served as president of the chapter, leading AIA Grand Valley to such accomplishments as the creation of a chapter website.

    “I’ve had the privilege of working with Markku both as a client and as a colleague,” commented Doug Parker, AIA, director of he Architecture and Interior Design Sales and marketing division of Steelcase. Parker served as chairperson for the Thornapple Evangelical Covenant Church building committee when Schemata was hired to design a new sanctuary, narthex and classroom addition.

    “The best compliment that a client can give to an architect is to tell prospective clients that you look forward to working with the firm on future projects,” said Parker.

    “Markku and his firm not only did an outstanding job on the design of the project, they truly became friends of the congregation, always looking out for their best interests without compromising the end result. Throughout the three years of our project Markku always took on the challenges and developed solutions that surpassed our expectations.”

    Currently Schemata is working on several new projects which Allison is proud of. The firm is building a new Catholic parish from scratch in Caledonia for Holy Family; Immanuel Lutheran Church, downtown is changing its school, offices and recreational center; and a house project where the family has hired not only Allison as the architect but also a painter and composer to interpret what they are looking for.

    “Markku’s work has always been about a blend of rigorous intellect with a passionate, creative spirit,” commented Peter Baldwin, AIA, senior vice president of A.M.D.G. Architects Inc. in a nomination letter. “That makes him very unique to our field.”

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