Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

Philip Freelon, MArch ’77


Artistic expression is important in Philip Freelon’s family. His grandfather, Allan Freelon Sr., was an impressionist during the Harlem Renaissance, and his wife, Nnenna Freelon, is a jazz singer and composer who has been nominated for six Grammy Awards. Philip Freelon is neither a painter nor a singer, but he sees his profession, architecture, as an art form too.

“Architecture is art with utility,” he says. “It’s the perfect blend of art and science: artistic, aesthetic, and serving an everyday purpose in the world.”

Freelon is founder, principal, and president of the Freelon Group, a 45-person architecture firm based in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park. The firm has won more than 50 American Institute of Architects awards and is known for its public projects, including the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, and the Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library in Washington, D.C.

“A building is an outgrowth of its contents,” Freelon says. “For cultural projects, we believe that a building’s form, materials, and configuration should help fulfill and express that institute’s vision and ­mission.”

In 2009, a group Freelon led was selected to design the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, a $500 million project that will open on the National Mall in 2015. “It’s been very hands-on, from predesign to the drawing, detailing, and construction,” he says.

In 2011, President Barack Obama appointed him to serve as the practicing architect for the seven-member U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, an independent federal agency that has review authority over design endeavors within D.C., including historic public spaces and monuments.

Freelon is also a regular presence on the MIT campus. He is on the faculty at the School of Architecture and Planning and teaches its fall-semester professional practice course.

“I’m always impressed with the quality of the students at MIT,” he says. “It’s important for me to stay connected to academia. I’m stimulated by the young minds and the talents of the students I come in contact with.”

Phil and Nnenna, married for 34 years, live in Durham. They have three children—Deen, an assistant professor at American University; Pierce, a musician and professor at North Carolina Central University; and visual artist Maya Freelon Asante—and three grandchildren.

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Credit: Photo courtesy of MITAA

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me