DARREL J. WILLIAMS, FAIA, a founding partner and the owner of Neighboring Concepts, has spent almost a quarter-century demonstrating that the practice of architecture can transform communities socially as well as physically, with a focus on community and the urban context, not simply the buildings. The breadth and depth of his work in Charlotte and North Carolina is testament to his passion not just for the power of award-winning architectural design but for the importance of truly engaging with communities. His involvement over decades with parks, affordable housing, transit and neighborhood betterment has made Charlotte a stronger city.
He got involved in community work because of concern for a dilapidated neighborhood park. That led to an appointment to the Parks and Recreation Commission, then to eight years as a Mecklenburg County commissioner. Since then he has poured his time and talents into building a multidisciplinary firm that produces thoughtful and sustainable urban planning, innovative architectural design and responsible real estate projects.
Williams was elected in 1994 and served four terms (8 years), on the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners. Among his many accomplishments, he encouraged his colleagues on the County Commission to include a 220 million-dollar Land Purchase Bond on the ballot in 1999. The successful passing of the bonds has allowed Mecklenburg County over a period of years to acquire land for public facilities such as schools; libraries, parks, greenways and hundreds of acres of open space that help protect the region’s drinking water. It also contributed to better coordination among the various agencies and encouraged more opportunities for joint use of public facilities, a government efficiency Williams has long advocated. As an architect and former elected official, he has proven successful in bridging the gap between the physical and social challenges facing urban communities.
Williams is driven by the desire to help sustain and revitalize urban communities, to give back to his profession, and to influence positive change. For him, “transforming communities through architecture” is more than his firm’s tagline; it is his life’s calling. An accomplished and award-winning architect, in 2006 he was elevated to the College of Fellows for the American Institute of Architects (AIA). He is a member of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and is licensed to practice in North Carolina and five other Southeastern states. He is active in AIA, is a past president of AIA Charlotte and served on the board of AIA North Carolina. Williams was a leader, supporter and committed volunteer on behalf of the new AIA North Carolina headquarters in Raleigh, the envy of many AIA Chapters across the country.
Williams was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Southern University (Baton Rouge, Louisiana). He graduated Cum Laude and received an award for the most outstanding Fifth Year Student in his class. Since then, Williams has been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions too numerous to name.
Williams is married to the Honorable Superior Court Judge, Karen Eady-Williams and has four sons.