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Accomplished Architect Philip Freelon Passes Away at 66

Philip Freelon, a known architect hailing from Philadelphia, sadly passed away this past week after a long fight with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, the degenerative neurological condition. He was the grandson of Impressionist painter Allan Randall Freelon Sr. and studied architecture as an undergraduate at North Carolina State University and as a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He founded his own architectural firm, The Freelon Group in 1990 based out of Durham, N.C. Later in the ear 2014, the firm was merged into Perkins+Will in 2014, where he ran the firm’s North Carolina office. In his honor, Perkins+Will launched The Philip Freelon Fellowship Fund for African American and minority students, at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design in 2016.


With a diverse portfolio, we decided to pay a small tribute of our own to him by talking about his inspiring work and his vast portfolio, the most notable one in our opinion being the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture, which was an outcome of a collaboration with David Adjaye, Hon. FAIA, and the late Max Bond. Some of his recognized proje

Architect Philip Freelon and one of his acclaimed projects, National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Altanta, GA

cts are: the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, N.C., the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Durham Bulls Athletic Park, and the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.


He leaves behind his wife Nnenna Freelon, a Grammy-nominated jazz singer, and three children.


Last year, the couple founded the Northstar Church of the Arts in Durham, in a 1930 Gothic-style church originally designed for a deaf congregation, according to Open Durham. The Freelon family has posted a statement on the Northstar website, which reads in part, "In lieu of flowers, Phil has asked that those who want to honor his legacy become sustaining donors of Northstar Church of the Arts, so that the same creative and spiritual energies that nurtured him throughout his life may positively impact others, especially in his adopted home of Durham, North Carolina. The Freelon family is planning a memorial service this fall. Details are forthcoming." Son Pierce Freelon is artistic director at Northstar.


AIA has released the following statement:


“We are saddened to learn of the loss of notable architect Phil Freelon, FAIA,” said AIA EVP/Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy, FAIA. “Phil was a trailblazer in the architecture community and a pioneer of public spaces. His contributions to the design of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, notable projects in communities across the United States as well as his positive influence on the profession and our society will be felt for years to come.”


“Phil has left a legacy of service to the AIA and its members,” said AIA 2019 President William Bates, FAIA. “He has served as a great mentor and role model for many and was a kind and loving friend to all who knew him. His memory will forever be imprinted in the significant designs he brought to the world. He will be greatly missed.”


This article has been updated to include the AIA and Freelon family statements.


Courtesy: Architect Magazine

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