April 2017

Philip G. Freelon

Philip G. Freelon

Philip G. Freelon is leaving a mark on the country Americans will notice for generations.

Based in Durham, Freelon is recognized as one of America’s most influential and dynamic architects for his ability to blend a building’s purpose with its form.

Among his notable projects are the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, GA, The Reginald Lewis Museum in Baltimore, MD and Emancipation Park in Houston, TX. Closer to home, his portfolio includes the Durham County Human Services Complex, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, the Proctor School of Education at NC A&T State University in Greensboro, and the Biomanufacturing Research Institute & Technology Enterprise (BRITE) facility at NC Central University in Durham.

“I see our work on public projects as incredible opportunities to deliver design excellence that is accessible to everyday people,” he said. “I believe that our building designs should be expressive of the positive work taking place inside of these facilities.”

Freelon’s designs are inspired by the vision of the institutions for which they are built. For example, the iconic architecture of the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, GA is comprised of two bold, curving walls. This powerful form provides the appropriate setting for the Center’s extensive interactive exhibits and programs.

The most significant accomplishment of Freelon’s career may be a building that actually resembles a crown, as the team of Freelon Adjaye Bond / SmithGroup leads the design for the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The Museum occupies the final available building site on the National Mall among the other Smithsonian Museums. The building draws inspiration from historical references to West African architecture and the ornate ironwork of the American south. Scheduled to open in the fall of 2016, the $260 million building will be the nation’s focal point for celebrating African American achievements in art, history and culture.

For Freelon, the Smithsonian Museum project brings him closer to his own personal history. Freelon’s grandfather was an African American educator, an impressionist painter, and civil rights activist during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s. Freelon’s father participated in the March on Washington when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

A native of Philadelphia, Freelon received a Bachelor of Environmental Design from North Carolina State University and a Master of Architecture degree from MIT. He also received a Loeb Fellowship from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He has lectured at major universities across the country and is currently on the faculty at MIT’s School of Architecture+Planning, where he was appointed Professor of Practice in 2009.

He founded The Freelon Group, Architects, in 1990 and is currently the Managing and Design Director for the North Carolina practice of the global architecture and design firm Perkins+Will.

Freelon’s work has won him numerous awards and recognitions. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a recipient of the AIA North Carolina’s Gold Medal, the association’s highest individual honor, and the 2009 recipient of the AIA Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture. In 2012, President Obama appointed him to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, where he currently serves as Vice Chairman. Additionally, his work has been published in national professional journals including Architect, Progressive Architecture and Architectural Record. Metropolis and Metropolitan Home magazines as well as the New York Times, Washington Post and the Philadelphia Inquirer have also featured his work.

Author: Raquel Kelly