Al Platt Passes Torch to Son Parker as Next Leader of PLATT
This article is republished with permission from PLATT. Al Platt [M.Arch ’75] and son Parker Platt [B.Arch. ’99] are alumni of the School of Architecture at the NC State College of Design. Together, they operate PLATT, an architecture, construction, and interior design firm located in Brevard, NC.
PLATT Announces New Company Leadership
PLATT, a prominent architecture, construction, and interior design firm located in Brevard, North Carolina, has announced that Parker Platt, son of founder Al Platt, will become the company’s new president. Parker, a longtime PLATT partner, has become principal owner of the firm and assumed his new duties on January 1, 2021. Al, who established the company in 1982, will remain at PLATT as a principal architect.
“Parker is just as passionate about our work, our clients, our employees and our community as I have always been,” said Al, “and I’m looking forward to continuing the business and creative collaboration we’ve enjoyed since he joined me in 1994.”
When he first opened his practice in Brevard in 1982, Al used his home as both an office and studio. Since those modest beginnings, the firm has evolved in dramatic ways, growing to become a well-respected architectural practice, while adding several new offerings, including construction, interior design, real estate, land conservation, and most recently PLATT HOME, a furniture and home decor showroom opening this spring.
In 38 years, the firm has completed over 500 projects for clients from across the country. Currently, PLATT has 35 full-time staff members.
“Even though our roles within the company are changing,” said Parker, “our creative partnership remains the same.”
The father and son team, both products of architecture programs at North Carolina State University, have collaborated on many of the firm’s most notable projects, including the 2006 HGTV Dream Home, a private residence featured nationally in VERANDA Magazine, the Brevard-based Oskar Blues Brewery, and the soon-to-be open Parker Concert Hall on the campus of Brevard Music Center.
Brevard Music Center figures prominently in the firm’s history. One of Al’s first commissions involved the design of a residence for visiting artists at Brevard Music Center. The “Composer’s Cottage” became the foundation for a relationship with Brevard Music Center spanning more than forty years and thirty projects. In 2018, PLATT restored the Composer’s Cottage as a fortieth anniversary gift to Brevard Music Center.
“One of the things that most impresses me about Al and Parker is the way in which they’ve invested their talents in the community,” said Grant Bullard, owner of Gwynn Valley Camp. “You can see it in the many local boards and commissions on which they serve and the way they’ve invested in downtown Brevard.”
PLATT offices occupy four restored buildings in downtown Brevard. In 2019, Al was recognized as a North Carolina Main Street Champion by the NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center, an organization that honors those who have made extraordinary contributions to their downtown.
Bullard also appreciates the father and son team’s commitment to authenticity:
“Whether it’s a private home or a camp dining room and kitchen like they designed for us, I think the question they always ask themselves is, ‘How can we create a space that respects its surroundings and brings people together in a natural and inviting way?’”
As its next leader, Parker’s vision for the future of the company is rooted in its origins.
“Dad has always said that the heart of our practice is about helping people make homes that they love, about creating living spaces people are deeply connected to,” said Parker. “Every new capability we’ve added – be it construction or interior design or land conservation – has in some way helped us better serve that purpose. And that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
A Short History of a Celebrated Firm
Al grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, where his father was an executive for Fisher Body, a subsidiary of GM. He attended Notre Dame and graduated with a B.A. in English from UNC-Chapel Hill and then taught school for two years in North Carolina.
It was there, pacing the aisles of a 7th grade classroom in Chatham County that the idea of a different career path took hold. Al learned of a new graduate architecture program at North Carolina State University for students without design backgrounds.
“I was always aware of how I felt – good or bad – in my surroundings and how they affected me,” said Al. “And I became interested in that and what an architect does to create those surroundings.”
His years at North Carolina State University helped bring a unique architectural philosophy into focus.
“Among architects, there are those who are more consciously ‘physical thing’ designers and I realized that I was always more interested in the effect of the thing, how it made you feel, more than the thing for its own sake,” Al explained. Platt received a Master of Architecture degree in 1975 and moved to Brevard, North Carolina, with his wife, Cindy, his high school sweetheart. There he completed his apprenticeship at a local firm and passed his licensing exam.
Platt then formed a short-lived partnership with fellow architect Joe Sam Queen (who went on to become a noted state legislator), before moving to Wilmington, NC to work at a larger practice.
“It was an important experience,” said Al of his work with Ligon Flynn at Ligon B. Flynn Architects in Wilmington. The mountains drew the couple back to Brevard and in 1982, Platt created the firm that bears his name.
“Our home was my office and the bed served as my layout table, so I had to make it every morning,” he recollected of his company’s humble beginnings.
Since then, PLATT has steadily grown to become a highly respected architectural firm in the Carolinas.
“When you think about it, a great home – or any kind of living space really – helps facilitate connections,” explained Al. “Connections to each other, to our family members, connections to the environment that surrounds us, even connections to the materials we use – like native wood and stone.”
“People know how they live and how they want to live,” he added. “I believe the success of our firm stems from the emphasis we put on ‘intentional listening,’ as a way to deeply understand our client’s vision and how to ensure the design complements their lives. We try not to impose our ideas. We want the design to emerge naturally from the characteristics of the building site and the conversations we have with our clients.”
The metaphor Al draws about connections also extends to the firm’s staff.
“We’ve been lucky to surround ourselves with great people,” said Al of the 35-member team. “We have some very talented people who’ve stayed with us for 10, 20, and even 30 years. Those kinds of bonds are crucial if you want to build a successful company.”
The Genesis of a Father Son Team
“I started working at PLATT part time when I was thirteen,” said Parker. “Running blueprints, attempting to make models of homes for clients. Over the years, my responsibilities just evolved and grew.”
Parker received a bachelor’s degree in Environmental and Architectural Design from North Carolina State University in 1994.
Following graduation, the younger Platt split his time between travel and working at PLATT. His post-college travels gave him the perspective that yielded an important insight.
“When you’re a kid, you have these dreams of places like Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, and New York – and you fancy yourself getting away from a small town,” explained Parker. “When I went away, I was able to look back at Brevard from a distance. I realized you could spend your whole life looking for a great place when, in fact, I was lucky enough to already be from a great place.”
Parker returned to North Carolina State University to earn his Bachelors of Architecture degree and then joined PLATT permanently in 1999.
“I was never pressured by dad to join him in the family business,” said Parker. “He gave me the space and time I needed to come to my own decisions independently. That was something I’ll always appreciate and admire about him.”
Once onboard, Parker proved to be a trusted design collaborator with his dad. Both possess their own unique style and temperament. But instead of clashing, their individual differences complement one another.
“Early on, I had an office right next to our conference room so I got to listen in on the conversations dad would have with clients,” said Parker. “And then one day, I was talking to a client and found myself talking with a confidence and a knowledge that I didn’t even know I possessed. And then I realized where my words were coming from. But it’s not surprising. I’ve been listening to him my whole life.”
In 2006, the two architects collaborated on an HGTV Dream Home.
“That was a very special home to design,” said Al “And the visibility of that project has helped spotlight the firm’s expertise.”
Similarly, PLATT was featured in 2017 on DIY Network’s #1 hit show, “Barnwood Builders.” The two episodes highlighted a lodge designed and built by PLATT using a reclaimed, 170-year-old, 40 x 40 timber frame structure found in Canada. The old barn was disassembled and brought to the western North Carolina mountains where it became the centerpiece of a lodge named “Which-A-Way.”
“Our in-house interior design team used art, furniture and Americana from the client’s own collection,” explained Parker. “That helped us to create a fun interior that is just as steeped in history as the lodge itself.”
In addition to an interior design division, Al and Parker have pioneered stand-alone construction, real estate and land conservation divisions to expand the business while helping the company better serve its core mission.
“Clients have discovered us in a lot of different ways and we’ve been fortunate to design homes around the country,” said Parker. “But what is especially gratifying to us is that, in many instances, these clients have not only picked PLATT to design their home, they’ve chosen western North Carolina as the place they want to call home. I think that’s a testament to how very special this place is.”
“A life in one place.”
It’s easy to find evidence of Al and Parker’s passion for Brevard and the Southern Appalachian Highlands that have been such an integral part of their lives.
“One of the things we pride ourselves on,” said Al, “is serving the community where we live and work. Being community-minded is just part of our company DNA.” PLATT has enjoyed a four decades long relationship with the legendary Brevard Music Center, highlighted in 2021 by the opening of Parker Concert Hall. Designed, built and furnished by PLATT, it will be the first year-round performance venue in Brevard Music Center’s history and the first multi-purpose event space built on the campus since Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium opened in 1964.
Al has also served as the President of the Brevard Chamber of Commerce, the Chair of the Brevard City Planning Board and has served as a member of the Brevard College Board of Trustees since 1996.
Al credits the example of his late wife, Cindy Platt, who passed away in 2013, with the company’s emphasis on community involvement.
“Cindy was a legendary public servant,” said Al. “She had an amazing tolerance for impossible odds.”
When the couple lived in Wilmington, she created a pre-school that still operates today, some forty years later.
“Her crowning achievement was our local Boys and Girls Club,” said Al. Today, this vital community resource for the children of Transylvania County is named in her honor.
Parker is similarly connected to the place he grew up. Like his father, Parker has also served on the Transylvania County Planning Board, and the Brevard/Transylvania Chamber of Commerce board.
Parker is also past-president and longtime board member of the Cindy Platt Boys and Girls Club of Transylvania County, a Community Trustee of the Transylvania Regional Hospital and was recently appointed a member of the western North Carolina Public Lands Council by Governor Roy Cooper.
While Al didn’t move to Brevard until his mid-20’s, both he and his family’s life is so bound up in Brevard that Parker’s words hold true for all of them:
“If I ever write a memoir, I think I’ll call it, “A life in one place.”
PLATT® is a full-service Architecture, Construction, and Interior Design firm based in Brevard, North Carolina, serving clients throughout the Southern Appalachian Highlands and beyond. Established in 1982, the company is led by Parker Platt, AIA and Alfred F. Platt Jr., AIA, and supported by a team of 35+ professionals. Specializing in custom homes and unique commercial structures, PLATT has successfully completed over 500 projects across the United States. To learn more, visit platt.us and @platt.us on Instagram.