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Personnel File - January 2008: architects

Michael Williams, President
Liquid Design PC, Charlotte

Michael Williams would prefer you not think of him as “that whitewater guy.” He designed the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte (“Current Assets,” July 2007). It’s a playground for outdoor athletes, with a rapids-riddled artificial river, a rock-climbing tower and mountain-bike and hiking trails around a conference center and pavilion. The design has brought him and partner Mike Standley offers from around the country to re-create the concept.

While proud of their work, Williams, 37, doesn’t want to be consigned to repeating it. He’s like Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 — fans yell for yesterday’s hits, but he’s ready to move on. “We’ll probably never do another whitewater project.” He would rather talk about Encore, a 20-story condo he has designed for downtown Charlotte. Both it and the whitewater center demanded a mix of creativity and technical innovation. “We have an elevator that you pull your car into, and it takes you to a garage on your floor. That’s never been done before in Charlotte. The site’s very small, and developers had been trying to make it work for years. There’s no place for ramps. There’s just enough room for the elevator.”

A West Virginia native who studied architecture at the University of Tennessee, he got lucky winning the commission for the whitewater center in 2002. He and Standley had only recently started the firm, but its name couldn’t have hurt. Williams insists it was a happy accident. “The name came before the whitewater project. Projects are always changing, and that’s where the idea for it came from.”