Durham architect Phil Freelon designs buildings that tell stories — and unite communities.
Since graduating from the NC State College of Design in 1975, Freelon has emerged as a go-to architect for structures that honor history and inspire the public, without sacrificing functionality. This fall, his highest-profile project yet, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, will open on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
“We believe that it’s not enough to simply put a beautiful wrapper around a gallery or around a library or around a public building or educational facility,” says Freelon, who is managing director and design director with Perkins+Will, an international architecture and design firm. “Anyone can do that — make a pretty box. But we want the building to contribute in some way to the idea and vision of the client or that institution.”
From April 7 through the end of June, an exhibition of Freelon’s work will be on display at the NC State African American Cultural Gallery in Witherspoon Student Center. The Woodward Student Involvement Center in Talley Student Union will also feature his work from April 5 to May 13. These exhibits focus on Freelon’s cultural, civic and collegiate projects. They include the District of Columbia Public Library, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, and the Harvey B. Gantt Center in Charlotte.
Freelon also has a permanent footprint on campus: He designed the Partners III Building on Centennial Campus and several renovations of existing buildings. He’s currently working on the new Gregg Museum of Art & Design, which is scheduled to open in the former Chancellor’s Residence in spring 2017.