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Phil Freelon

Preeminent architect Phil Freelon designs community-centered spaces that make beautiful architectural design accessible to everyone. Freelon was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but first called North Carolina home as an undergraduate, when he transferred from Hampton University to North Carolina State University. He went on to earn a Masters in Architecture from MIT and, after a few years away from his adopted home state, returned to Durham to work for O’Brien Atkins. He has called North Carolina home ever since. Freelon later founded his own firm, the Freelon Group, which merged with Perkins+Will in 2014. Freelon currently serves as the Design Director for Perkins+Will’s North Carolina practice.

Best known as the lead designer for the National Museum of African American History and culture, Freelon has designed numerous projects, both locally and nationally, that center African and African American histories and cultures. In North Carolina, he designed the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture (Charlotte), and buildings at both NC A&T University (Greensboro) and NC Central University (Durham). Nationally, his work includes the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (Atlanta), the Museum of the African Diaspora (San Francisco), and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum (Jackson). Freelon’s design scope extends to libraries, academic institutions, and government facilities. In Durham alone, his projects include the Durham Station Transportation Center, the Durham County Human Services Building, and the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.  

Phil Freelon is also a beloved mentor who has dedicated himself to diversifying the field of architecture. At Perkins+Will, he has worked to ensure that his team reflects his vision for the future of the profession: 40% of his team are women, and 30% are people of color. When Freelon stepped down as Managing Director of the firm in 2017, he named a woman of color to the position. He is passionate about mentoring emerging architects, particularly those who belong to groups that have, historically, been unrepresented in the field.

Recently named one of Fast Company’s most creative people in business, the publication noted that Freelon is “the most influential African-American architect practicing today.” Freelon is a recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture, is a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and, in 2011, was appointed to the National Commission of Fine Arts by former president Barack Obama. Following his own ALS diagnosis, Freelon founded the Freelon Foundation in 2016, an organization that raises awareness and funds for ALS research.

[Sources, as suggested by honoree: https://perkinswill.com/people/phil-freelon; https://www.fastcodesign.com/90155468/americas-humanitarian-architect]