Philip Freelon

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Philip Freelon (born March 26, 1953), a native of Philadelphia, United States is an African American architect. He is best known as leading the design team (with J. Max Bond, Jr. of Davis Brody Bond and with David Adjaye) of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. 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 is 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.[1] Freelon is married to six-time Grammy nominated jazz vocalist, Nnenna Freelon.



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 has served as an adjunct professor at the College of Design, North Carolina State University and has been 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 is currently a visiting Lecturer at MIT in the School of Architecture and Planning.[2]

The Freelon Group[edit]

Philip Freelon founded The Freelon Group in 1990. Since then, The Freelon Group has 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, Freelon's 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 J. Max Bond, Jr. (of Davis Brody Bond) and David Adjaye (of Adjaye Associates), Freelon was selected by unanimous decision to design the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.[3] 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.[4]

In March 2014, The Freelon Group announced a planned acquisition by global architectural design firm Perkins + Will.[5] After the close of the transaction, Philip Freelon is expected to join Perkins + Will’s board of directors and become managing and design director of the firm’s North Carolina practice.


Philip is the grandson of pioneer African American impressionist Allan Randall Freelon, Sr. (1895–1960). He is married to six-time Grammy nominee, Nnenna Freelon.[6] He is the father of three children, Deen, Maya and Pierce.

Their son Pierce Freelon is a Hip-Hop artist (in the group The Beast), a professor at North Carolina Central University and the founder of a website called Blackademics where he has interviewed many notable figures such as Angela Davis, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, and Jesse Jackson. Pierce ran as a mayoral candidate in the Durham, North Carolina, mayoral race in 2017. Deen Freelon is an assistant professor in the School of Communication at American University studying social media and politics.[7] Daughter Maya Freelon Asante is an award-winning visual artist and wife of filmmaker, author and activist, M.K. Asante, Jr.

Freelon was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2016.[8]


  1. ^ Thomas E. Luebke, ed., Civic Art: A Centennial History of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, 2013): Appendix B, p. 544.
  2. ^ Freelon Group website
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-04-17. Retrieved 2009-04-15.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "Smithsonian's African-American History Museum Will Open September 24". Washingtonian. Retrieved 2016-02-26.
  5. ^ Bracken, David (6 March 2014). "Global architecture firm Perkins+Will acquiring the Freelon Group". The Durham News. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  6. ^ "Biography - Nnenna Freelon". Retrieved 2016-02-26.
  7. ^ "Faculty Profile - Deen Freelon". American University. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  8. ^ "Architect of African-American museum raising ALS awareness". Retrieved 29 December 2016.