Black ExperienceBlack HistoryObituary

Phil Freelon, 66, Designer of African American Museum, Dies

Phil Freelon, known for his work designing the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in the nation’s capital, died Tuesday. He was 66.

Freelon had been diagnosed in 2016 with the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

“From his work on the world-renowned Smithsonian Museum of African-American History to his advocacy for the arts, Phil Freelon’s impact on our country and our state will be missed,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper tweeted.

The architect of the four-year-old museum in northwest D.C., who was appointed in 2011 by former President Barack Obama to the Commission of Fine Arts, was also the mastermind of Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights and San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora.

Freelon was a graduate of North Carolina State University’s College of Design, where he earned a bachelor’s in architecture. He also earned his master’s in architecture from MIT.

The Philadelphia native’s work has been published in national professional journals including Architecture, Progressive Architecture, Architectural Record, and Contract magazine, in which he was named Designer of the Year in 2008.

A memorial service will take place in the fall.

“In lieu of flowers, Phil has asked that those who want to honor his legacy become sustaining donors of Northstar Church of the Arts, so that the same creative and spiritual energies that nurtured him throughout his life, may positively impact others, especially in his adopted home of Durham, North Carolina,” the family posted on the website of the Northstar Church of the Arts that Freelon and his wife founded last year.

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