It is with profound sorrow that we share the news of Phil Freelon’s passing.
Phil was committed to designing a socially equitable world. Over his 42-year career, Phil broke down socioeconomic and cultural barriers in architecture and design. Phil’s lifelong dedication to designing places that express the spirit of community, promote cultural equity, and create positive social change has left a significant impact on us. He led the design of almost every major museum or public space dedicated to black culture in the United States, including the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.; the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia; the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, California; the forthcoming Motown Museum in Detroit, Michigan; the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Mississippi; and Historic Emancipation Park in Houston, Texas.
He was, arguably, the most significant African American architect in recent history.
Phil was the design director of Perkins and Will’s North Carolina practice and a member of our Board of Directors. His exceptional leadership was recognized in numerous ways, including his 2011 appointment by President Barack Obama to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts; his 2017 designation as Architect of the Year by Fast Company; and his 2017 receipt of the North Carolina Award, the highest civilian honor in the state that Phil has called home for over 30 years. His family was his greatest source of love, pride, and inspiration; he was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather.
While we are filled with sorrow over the passing of our beloved friend, we are also overflowing with gratitude for having known, collaborated with, and learned from him. Phil’s legacy will live on in our hearts and memories; in the spirit of his family; in the communities he so passionately served; and in the scores of beautiful and uplifting places he designed to stand tall and proud—just like him.