The Hornet's Nest

Facades+ Charlotte will explore the growing dynamism of the Queen City

Eddie Portis, co-chair of Facades+ Charlotte, is principal of Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, a leading firm at a national scale. In 2016, the firm received top honors at the 2016 Architecture at Zero Competition for its Fogcatcher student housing proposal in San Francisco. (Courtesy Little)
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Charlotte, North Carolina, is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, aided in part by the city’s status as the nation’s second-largest financial center after New York City. Thanks in part to a continually expanding light-rail system, entire corridors of the city have seemingly sprouted overnight, delivering thousands of residential units and dozens of significant commercial developments. On March 19, The Architect’s Newspaper is bringing Facades+ to Charlotte for the first time to discuss the development and facade research being conducted in the city. Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, a local firm with an international presence, is co-chairing the event.

Participants for the conference’s symposium include Duda|Paine Architects, UNC Charlotte, NC State College of Design, MARC FORNES/THEVERYMANY, Northwood Ravin, BB+M Architecture, Perkins+Will, Crescent Communities, and Cousins Properties.

In this interview with The Architect’s Newspaper, Little Principal Eddie Portis, the conference co-chair, discusses the trends reshaping Charlotte and the work of Little within and outside the city.

A rendering of Ally Center

Litte’s Ally Center, in partnership with Crescent Communities, is a 24-story tower currently underway in the Uptown area of Charlotte. (Courtesy Little)

The Architect’s Newspaper: Charlotte is one of the fastest-growing construction markets in the country. How is the current boom in development reshaping the Queen City?

Eddie Portis: Charlotte has been evolving toward an 18-hour city for several years and the current boom is accelerating this evolution. The improvements occurring within the Stonewall corridor are great examples of this. Over 4 million new square feet of office, hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail, including a Whole Foods grocery store, and countless new dwelling units are changing the fabric of our city.

AN: Can you expand on the above and focus on Uptown and corridors of transit-oriented development?

EP: We are experiencing the era of “convenience” as a result of the densification of our city’s core and the linear growth created by rail. When combined with our busing network, Uber, and even scooters, how we move through the city has undergone a massive, positive transformation. The way we can now move through the city is changing the way we shop, dine, work, and play.

A speculative project by Little for the Brooklyn Navy Yard

In 2018, Little was recognized as a finalist in a Next-Generation Facade competition by Metals in Construction magazine. The 30-story modular tower was speculatively placed in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. (Courtesy Little)

AN: What do you perceive to be the most exciting trends, be it in facade design or urbanistically, of this era of development?

EP: I see a very positive trend in the downtown area as it relates to the public realm. There is a renewed focus on the ground plane and the involvement of buildings in our community. Large expansive office lobbies are giving way to more modestly-scaled lobbies so that more space can be created for retail of all shapes and sizes. The other factor we see, at least in office development, that is not a current trend but rather a constant pursuit, is daylight and views. The “fifth” facade—that from the view of the building occupant—has an incredible impact on our city. It creates eyes on the street and absorbs the energy of the city; it improves worker performance and enlightens our lives.

The CRRA's new home features an office, school and charity.

The under-construction Charlotte Regional Realtor Association (CRRA)’s Headquarters is a glass-sheathed home for the CRRA, an real estate school, and a charity. (Courtesy Little)

AN: Little is one of the largest firms in the city. How are you embracing this moment and what novel enclosure practices are being used by your firm?

EP: At Little, we encourage exploration and seek to implement breakthrough ideas. One way we do this is through our internal “ReThink” initiative. In this initiative, a team seeks to explore the latest thoughts in the industry and overlay those with design intent. This is demonstrated through a recent, winning design competition project where we worked with San Francisco State University to create a skin concept designed to capture water from the prevalent fog that helped allow for a net positive student housing facility. Another example is a design competition we recently completed through Metals magazine. Our “Living in the Wall” study demonstrated how the curtain wall can become more than a “line on a page,” and instead become a multi-dimensional blur between people and the environment, technology, and humanity.

Further information regarding Facades+ Charlotte may be found here.

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