Then & Now: Architect realizes dream by opening design firm

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 1,688 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Jan. 30 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.


On Jan. 13, 2020, Ryan Faust opened his architectural studio, fulfilling his lifelong dream of being a business owner.

“It was an interesting time,” he recalled during a recent interview at BUF Studio’s downtown Bentonville office. “If we’d known a pandemic was coming, we wouldn’t have done it. So, I’m glad I didn’t know it was coming. But you knew there was no turning back.”

Faust, the firm’s managing principal, said BUF Studio thrived despite the challenges.

“The first year [2020] was like a jet taking off,” he said. “And we haven’t slowed down. In a referral-based industry, you’ve got to do a good job, and we work hard to do our best.”

Faust, 41, studied architecture, art history and global studies at Drury University in Springfield, Mo., and started his career as a project architect at Jack Ball Architects in 2005. While there, he received a distinguished service award from the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for helping start a mentoring program for young architects.

In 2011, an opportunity at Bentonville firm Harrison French & Associates brought Faust to Northwest Arkansas. In 2015, Springfield, Mo.-based Bates & Associates Architects hired him to open a Northwest Arkansas office. The firm works in various markets, including education and healthcare, and was selected for a $247 million expansion project at Mercy Hospital in Rogers.

The Northwest Arkansas Business Journal selected Faust for its annual Forty Under 40 class in 2016.

Through a merger, BatesForum was formed in 2018. In 2019, Lamar Johnson Collaborative, a design and architecture subsidiary of Chicago-based Clayco, merged with BatesForum.

Faust and Christophe Bouteille were Lamar Johnson Collaborative colleagues before co-founding BUF Studio with seven employees. Today, there is a satellite office in Springfield, Mo., and 21 employees work for the firm. There are 13 jobs in the Bentonville office inside the Greenway Office Park on Southeast Fifth Street.

Faust said the company name refers to one of the firm’s guiding principles: “Be a buffalo.” It illustrates the notion, Faust explained, that buffalo face the storm rather than run from it and can get through challenges quickly and fearlessly.

Faust credits the firm’s project diversity for growth. A full-service firm, BUF Studio has clients in multiple sectors, including multifamily, healthcare, industrial and higher education.

“It’s important as an architect to be a critical thinker, and to be a critical thinker, you have to apply yourself in many different areas,” he said. “We’re a general practice firm, and because of that, we’re growing many markets at the same time.”

Designing the J.B. and Johnelle Hunt Family Children’s Safety Center of Washington County is one of BUF Studio’s notable projects. Construction of the 15,200-square-foot facility began this past summer near Arvest Ballpark in Springdale. Faust said it’s one of his favorite projects for two reasons — supporting the nonprofit’s mission, and he believes it’s one of BUF Studio’s best designs.

“Many times, we work in smaller groups, or a project doesn’t need everybody, but that one needed everybody,” he said. “The fact that the whole team was involved in getting that design just right was rewarding.”

Faust said specific metrics or revenue goals don’t drive the company’s growth strategy.

“We’re trying to grow the opportunities for our staff to serve our clients,” he explained. “When we do that, everything else takes care of itself. We have a great staff. They work hard and have a lot of fun together. It seems like growth results from all the other things you put in place.”

Married with two kids — an 8-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter — Faust is involved in multiple civic endeavors. He’s a member of the business development board for First National Bank of NWA and belongs to the Mercy Health Foundation NWA Corporate Council.

Faust was also recently appointed as a board member for the Excellerate Foundation, a regional nonprofit working to fill gaps in social services.

“I had a mentor tell me one time, ‘opportunity comes with responsibility,’” Faust said. “I couldn’t have picked a better place to start a company. It’s home for me now, and I want to give back and make sure we are doing our part to make sure we are helping others.”