The late North Carolina architect Philip G. Freelon (1953-2019) had a remarkable career of over four decades designing public buildings with his firm The Freelon Group and later as Design Director of Perkins + Will North Carolina.
This exhibition critically examines Freelon’s work, including museums, libraries, cultural centers, and public parks, with a focus on projects that foreground African-American communities and identities. Freelon often noted that architecture should be more than a container, that it should help tell the story of and be integral to the content of these public institutions.
To explore the relationship between the “container” and the “contained” in Freelon’s architecture, this exhibition documents and analyzes connections between the forms, materials, and meanings of the projects and the histories and cultures they celebrate.
Roots, Concept, Skin
Freelon and his team drew on histories of neighborhoods, connections to communities, and African pasts to create designs rooted firmly in place and time. For Freelon, activism and celebration of heritage are subtly present in the work. African-American identity is explored through cultural relevance, connections, and the historical rootedness of the designs.
Freelon frequently employed expressive formal concepts that link architecture to the institutions contained within. He was a master of visual symbolism and intentional design metaphors that are thought-provoking and reference culture and history.
Freelon’s work explored the multiple functions and meanings of skin – as both a protective covering and a visual form of identification. In his designs for African-American communities and institutions, Freelon expanded the idea of skin with complex building envelopes that explored the use of color, pattern, and material.
Phil Freelon: An American Story