• Philip G. Freelon: An Architect of Relationships and Stories
    Arthur J. Clement & Emily G. Makaš

Emily G. Makas, “National Center for Civil and Human Rights, designed by the Freelon Group / HOK, built 2014” Atlanta, 2023. Courtesy Emily G. Makaš

During his four-decade career, the architect Philip G. Freelon (1953–2019) was best known for the museums and cultural facilities that focused on the African American experience and that uplifted African American communities. He designed dozens of libraries, museums, cultural centers, and campus buildings, and led the design team for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. In 2009, he became the first African American selected for the American Institute of Architects’ Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Buildings. This research project—addresses Freelon’s role as a design leader, including the growth of his national-profile, award-winning architectural practice, his collaborative team building, and his mentorship of a generation of architects of color. The project brings together a range of voices to explore several aspects of Freelon’s career including his idea-driven architecture, his place in the genealogy of African American modernists, the stories and metaphors in his African American history and culture museums, the design-for-all ethos of his buildings and landscapes, as well as his art practice through photography.

Arthur J. Clement was the first African American to graduate from the North Carolina State School of Design with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. He is a retired first lieutenant in the United States Army and had a 50-year career with several architectural, construction, and program management firms. He now has an in independent architectural history consulting company. Over the past 20 years, Clement has completed numerous campus heritage studies. He currently serves on the advisory committee for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative. He also served on the board of trustees for the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.

Emily Makaš has a PhD in the history of architecture and urbanism from Cornell University and a master’s degree in historic preservation from Columbia University. Her research explores connections between memory and identity and the built environment, mostly focused on relationships between public history and urban and national identities in Southeastern Europe. Her key publications include Architectural Conservation in Europe and the Americas (Wiley, 2011, coauthored with J.H. Stubbs) and Capital Cities in the Aftermath of Empires: Planning in Central and Southeastern Europe (Routledge, 2010, coedited with T.D. Conley). She has also led teams of faculty and students pursuing public history and heritage projects exploring identity in the United States, including a series of exhibitions under the title Container/Contained: Phil Freelon: Design Strategies for Telling African American Stories (Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Tallahassee, 2023; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, 2022; Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Art and Culture, Charlotte, 2021).