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Thu, 03.26.1953

Phillip Freelon, Architect born

Phillip Freelon

*Philip Freelon was born on this date in 1953.  He was a Black architect.  

Born and raised in Philadelphia, his family was made up of artists, educators, and inventors and he too developed a lifelong love for the arts and culture. Harlem Renaissance-era painter Allan Randall Freelon, Sr, his grandfather, helped kindle his awareness of the physical world and his interest in the creative expression.

Classes in visual arts, design, and drafting at Philadelphia’s Central High School provided the early steps on his route towards a career in architecture.  He was accepted into the architecture school at Hampton University and two years later transferred to North Carolina State University.  Following graduation from North Carolina State University's College of Design with a Bachelor of Environmental Design (Architecture) and top design honors, he went on to earn his Master of Architecture degree from MIT.

Freelon served as an adjunct professor at the College of Design, North Carolina State University and was a visiting critic/lecturer at Harvard University, MIT, the University of Maryland, College Park, the University of Utah, the California College of the Arts, Kent State University (Florence Italy, program), Syracuse University, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, among others. In 1989, Freelon was the recipient of the Loeb Fellowship and spent a year of independent study at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Freelon was also a visiting Lecturer at MIT in the School of Architecture and Planning. 

He founded The Freelon Group in 1990. Since then, they expanded to a sixty-member architectural firm located in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina. The Freelon Group offers specialized design expertise in the areas of Museum/Cultural Center, Higher Education and Science/Technology facilities. The firm has received over twenty-five regional, state and local AIA design awards including AIA North Carolina’s Outstanding Firm Award in 2001. Between 2006 and 2007, his designs were honored with seven AIA North Carolina design awards, an accomplishment never before achieved by one firm in a two-year period. In 2008, The Freelon Group was recognized by Contract Magazine as The Designer of the Year. In 2009, along with partners Davis Brody Bond and Adjaye Associates), Freelon was selected to design the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The Museum has five floors above ground and four below. It houses a cafe, educational spaces, exhibition halls and galleries as well as a theater.  

Some of his other projects include the Center for Civil & Human Rights, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture and the Museum of the African Diaspora. Freelon was a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (and the recipient of their Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture), and a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Accredited Professional. In 2012, President Barack Obama appointed Freelon to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.  He was married to singer Nnenna Freelon, with whom he had three children: Deen, Maya, and Pierce.  In 2014, The Freelon Group announced a planned acquisition by global architectural design firm Perkins + Will.  In 2016, Freelon was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.  Philip Freelondied on July 9, 2019, in Raleigh, North Carolina.   

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