Obit

Phil Freelon, who worked on the national African American history museum, is dead at 66

Phil Freelon, left, with his son Pierce, right. (Courtesy the North Carolina Arts Council)

Phil Freelon, the Durham, North Carolina–based architect who helped design the monumental National Museum of African American History and Culture, has died at age 66. The cause was complications from ALS.

Freelon founded his firm, The Freelon Group, almost 30 years ago. He was best known for his most recent project, his work on the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) with J. Max Bond, Jr., principal of New York’s Davis Brody Bond, and David Adjaye, principal of London’s Adjaye Associates. The D.C. museum opened in 2016 to rave reviews of both the building and exhibitions on the history of African Americans and African American life. The structure is clad in tessellated cast-aluminum panel inspired by patterns made by black artisans in the New Orleans and Charleston, while the form echos a crown and a group raising their arms in celebration.

The Freelon Group also completed projects like Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights and Houston’s Emancipation Park, the News & Observer reported. The Freelon Group was acquired by Perkins+Will in 2016, and Freelon joined the firm as a principal and design director in North Carolina.

Friends, family, and colleagues took to social media to remember Freelon:

Most recently, Freelon and his wife, Nnenna, a Grammy-nominated jazz singer, unveiled their renovation of the NorthStar Church of the Arts, a house of worship and space for creative activities in Durham. In a message on NorthStar’s website, the Freelon family requested the bereaved donate to the church in lieu of buying flowers.

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