PLATT, an architecture, construction and interior design firm located in Brevard, will celebrate its 40th anniversary this month.
A short film chronicling the company’s history can be viewed at www.platt.us/film.
“Brevard has been our home from the beginning,” said founder Al Platt. “So much of our success revolves around this special community and the lifetime’s worth of friends we’ve made here and throughout western North Carolina – clients, employees, partners and subcontractors. We want to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who has helped us along on this incredible journey.”
When he first opened his practice in Brevard in 1982, Platt 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 architecture practice in the region while adding several new divisions including construction, interior design, real estate and land conservation.
In 40 years, the firm has completed more than 500 projects with clients across the country.
Currently, PLATT has nearly 50 full-time staff members.
In 2021 Platt passed the reins of the firm to his son, Parker Platt, who became president and principal owner. Platt remains at PLATT as an architect and consultant.
“Dad didn’t just build an architectural firm, he built a culture,” said Parker. “All of us who have worked with him realize how much we’ve internalized the lessons he has spent his lifetime teaching – the commitment to quality, accountability and putting the needs of the client first.”
Not surprisingly, Platt’s first career was in teaching.
And it was there, pacing the aisles of a 7th grade classroom in Chatham County that the idea of a different career path took hold.
He 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,” he said. “And I became interested in that and what an architect does to create those surroundings.”
His years at N.C. State 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,” Platt explained.
Platt received a Master of Architecture degree in 1975 and moved to Brevard with his late wife, Cindy, his high school sweetheart.
There he completed his apprenticeship at a local firm and passed his licensing exam.
Platt then formed a brief partnership with fellow architect Joe Sam Queen (who went on to become a noted state legislator), before moving to Wilmington to work at a larger practice.
The mountains drew the couple back to Brevard and in 1982, Platt created the firm that bears his name.
“When I first started out, our bed served as my layout table so I had to make it every morning,” he recollected of his company’s humble beginnings.
Like his father, Parker is an alumnus of North Carolina State University. Receiving his bachelor’s degree in environmental design in architecture in 1994 and his bachelor of architecture degree in 1999, Parker joined PLATT permanently that same year.
“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.” For Platt, that was a pivotal moment in the firm’s history.
“Parker and I have always been of one mind,” he said. “And when Parker aligned his energy with the company, that was an important turning point.”
Many of the firm’s most high-profile projects have been father-and-son collaborations. In 2006, the two architects partnered on an HGTV Dream Home.
“That was a very special home to design,” Platt said. “And the visibility of that project has helped spotlight our firm’s ability.”
Similarly, PLATT was featured in 2017 on DIY Network’s #1 hit show “Barnwood Builders”, now airing on the Magnolia Network.
The two episodes highlighted a lodge designed, built and furnished 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.”
The connection that Platt and Parker have as architects and collaborators is symbolic of another critical bond the firm works hard to achieve.
“When you think about it, a great home – or any kind of living space really – helps facilitate connections,” explained Platt. “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.”
The Platt’s belief in the power of connections also extends to the firm’s staff.
“We’ve been lucky to surround ourselves with great people,” said Platt of the 50-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.”
Looking back on 40 years and hundreds of projects, the main thing Platt wishes PLATT to be remembered for isn’t necessarily a physical structure.
“People know how they live and how they want to live,” he said. “I believe the success of our firm stems from the emphasis we put on ‘intentional listening,’ 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.”
“Dad has always said that the heart of our practice is about helping people make places that they love and about creating living spaces people are deeply connected to,” said Parker. “Every new service 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.”
Another hallmark of PLATT’s success is its reverence for the natural world and the ability to integrate the firm’s designs into native surroundings.
“Our practice is built on creating imminently livable spaces,” Platt said. “And one of the ways we have done that, from the beginning of our practice, really, is to blur the lines between the outdoors and the indoors.”
Fortunately, one of the great places in the world to put that philosophy into practice is the western North Carolina mountains. And, as it turns out, there was no better place in the world for Platt to start his own architectural practice.
“I grew up in some big places,” he said. “Atlanta. New York. And when I came to Brevard, I had never lived in a place this small. But what I’ve discovered is that if you’ve got a chance to do what you love and you do it in a place that is meaningful to you, enough of the world will come to you. And enough of the world has come to us. That’s been deeply satisfying.”
It’s easy to find evidence of Platt 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,” Platt said, “is serving the community where we live and work. Being community-minded is just part of our company identity.”
PLATT has enjoyed a four decades-long relationship with the Brevard Music Center highlighted in 2021 by the opening of Parker Concert Hall.
Designed, built and furnished by PLATT, it is the first year-round performance venue in BMC’s history and the first multi-purpose event space built on the campus since Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium opened in 1964.
Platt has 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.
Platt 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,” he said. “She had an amazing tolerance for impossible odds.”
When the couple lived in Wilmington, she created a preschool that still operates today some 40 years later.
“Her crowning achievement was our local Boys and Girls Club,” Platt said.
Today, this community resource for the children of Transylvania County is named in her honor.
Parker is similarly connected to the place where he grew up. Like his father, Parker has also served on many boards including the Transylvania County Planning Board, and the Brevard/Transylvania Chamber of Commerce board.
Parker is also past-president and is a longtime board member of The Cindy Platt Boys and Girls Club of Transylvania County, a member of the western North Carolina Public Lands Council as appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper and a member of Brevard’s City Council Downtown Master Plan Committee.
While Platt 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 happened to write a memoir, I think I’d call it, “A life in one place.”
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