PreviousNext

Phil Freelon Blends Practice and Advocacy

At the Center for Architecture by • 10/29

The fourth annual J. Max Bond, Jr. Lecture brought esteemed practitioner Phil Freelon, FAIA, NOMA, to the podium. The North Carolina-based architect, who studied how to combine advocacy with practice as a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University, has made a career of designing educational and cultural buildings. Toni Griffin, herself a previous J. Max Bond, Jr. lecturer, introduced Freelon’s talk entitled “Conversations: Community,” reflecting Bond’s own ethos in architecture. The projects that followed certainly promoted cultural and civic understanding, from the historic International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina, to Freelon’s current collaboration on the National Museum of African American History and Culture for the Smithsonian Institution.

Showing cultural centers, museums, and libraries, Freelon succinctly described each, followed by the design process and realization of the building. He provided status reports of those under construction, such as Houston’s Emancipation Park and the Smithsonian project in Washington, DC. For the latter, Freelon and Max Bond, FAIA, who were separately scouting the upcoming project, decided to pursue the project jointly. Later, David Adjaye, Hon. FAIA, joined the team, , along with Hal Smith, FAIA, of SmithGroup. The Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup team was a natural, Freelon said, because they all share a similar firm culture. Speaking about the corona topping the Smithsonian design, he declared, “Buildings should be more than just a pretty envelope.” One got the sense that each of his buildings would look good and satisfy deeper design issues.

Two libraries in Washington, DC, demonstrated a design methodology, but not a formula. Both projects examined site and context to yield unique results. One in Tenley-Friendship lifted a sun-shielding wrapper to expose the ground floor, while services lined the solid western wall. The other, in Anacostia, wrapped the sunscreen over pavilions that transitioned the commercial district to the west with the smaller-scale neighborhood to the east. The moves share a common vocabulary, but yield different programmatic and contextual results.

Freelon said the site for the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture in Charlotte, NC, posed one of his more difficult challenges. However, the kernel of the design sprang from the limitations of the 55-foot-wide by 400-foot-long site, which included parking ramp access to an adjacent building. Inspired by stairs in a historical photo and textile patterns, Freelon’s pragmatic planning allowed a poetic response: services along the lengthy party wall, entries at the ends, and public space toward the center, in a dramatic “billboard-like facade.”

However, in discussing the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Freelon warned, “Things can be trite if you’re too forward in transposing an idea to a building.” The center’s initial concept in 2008 had been interlocking arms, as seen at protest demonstrations. As the decade progressed and budget and square footage decreased by a third, and then a third again, Freelon’s team had to keep tweaking the design. “If you keep shrinking the arms you get a crocodile, or a Tyrannosaurus Rex,” he joked. Ultimately, the project ended up as a pair of “hands” holding an atrium – very different from the initial design, but  an expressive public place, nonetheless.

Having started his own firm after completing a “mid-career” Harvard Loeb Fellowship in 1990, Freelon entered a third phase last year, when his firm joined Perkins+Will. When asked what’s next, Freelon easily answered that he is combining his practice’s design and planning prowess with the support of more technical expertise and an expanded geographic network. The profession will certainly be watching.

James Way, Assoc. AIA is Co-chair of the AIANY Marketing and Communications Committee, and a frequent contributor to e-Oculus.

Event: J. Max Bond Jr. Lecture | Conversations: Community with Phil Freelon, FAIA, NOMA
Location: Center for Architecture, 10.26.15
Speaker: Phil Freelon, FAIA, NOMA, Managing and Design Director, Perkins+Will North Carolina; Founder and President, Freelon Group; Toni Griffin, Professor and Director, J. Max Bond Center, Spitzer School of Architecture, City College of New York
Organized by: AIANY Diversity and Inclusion Committee and New York Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (nycobaNOMA)
Sponsored by: Davis Brody Bond

Comments are closed.

Congratulations to the 149 AIA members (and 18 AIANY members) inducted to the AIA College of Fellows.
Dispatch from the 2016 AIA National Convention: Phil-AIA-delphia From the Executive Director
FitCity 2016
Policy Pulse: FitCity 2016 Policy Pulse
Congratulations to the Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMA) team, winners of Guess-A-Sketch 2016!
Guess-A-Sketch Raises over $100K for NYC Schoolchildren At the Center for Architecture
Convention Special: Hudson Yards – New York’s First Post-Digital Neighborhood Reports from the Field
Speakers of " Exploring the Past, Defining the Future: The History of Social Science and Architecture."
Social Science Challenging and Reinforcing Spatial Design: From Çatalhöyük to Networked Innovation Communities At the Center for Architecture
Second- and third-grade students at PS 132 in Washington Heights showcased the bridges they designed in a 10-week Learning By Design:NY program .
Learning By Design:NY Wrap-up Learning by Design
Aldo Giurgola (1920 – 2016)
In Memoriam: Two Tributes to Aldo Giurgola (1920 – 2016) In Memoriam
1 - Basic Black
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
New Deadlines New Deadlines
"New Practices New York 2016," through 07.23.16
On View About Town
05.12.16: The winners of the 2016 AIANY New Practices New York competition discussed their work at the opening of the New Practices New York 2016 exhibition. (l-r) Phu Hoang, AIA, and Rachely Rotem, MODU; Troy Schaum and Rosalyne Shieh, AIA, SCHAUM/SHIEH; Bryan Young, AIA, Young Projects; Benjamin Cadena, AIA, Studio Cadena; Seung Teak Lee, stpmj; Ines Guzman and Gregory Melitonov, Assoc. AIA, Taller KEN; and James Slade, FAIA, IIDA, LEED AP, Slade Architecture.
Sighted Sighted
Innovative Wellness Design Seminar and Reception
Classifieds Classifieds
Suzanne Mecs, Hon. AIANYS, Managing Director, AIANY; Eric Goshow, AIA, LEED AP, Director for Legislative Affairs, AIANY; Carol Loewenson, FAIA, 2016 President, AIANY; Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, Co-chair, AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee; Sherida Paulsen, FAIA, Principal, PKSB Architects; David Piscuskas, FAIA, LEED AP, President-Elect, AIANY; Venesa Alicea, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Alternate Director for Professional Development, AIANY; Benjamin Prosky, Executive Director, AIANY; and Emma Pattiz, Policy Coordinator, AIANY
Advocating for Architects in Albany From the Executive Director
AIA Convention, Philadelphia 05.19-21.16
AIA Convention 2016 Editor's Note
NYC Department of Transportation Street Design Manual
Your Input Requested for the Future of NYC Streets Policy Pulse
Despina Stratigakos discusses her latest book, Where Are the Women Architects?
Oculus Book Review: Where are the Women Architects? by Despina Stratigakos Book Reviews
Organizers and speakers of "Heat Waves: Preparing for and Managing the Effects of Extreme Heat on Health, Populations, Emergency Housing, and Hospitals."
No Disasters According to Plan, but the Hot Ones are Inevitable At the Center for Architecture
Christopher Benninger, Principal, CCBA Architects
Christopher Benninger: Designing India’s Universities At the Center for Architecture
1 - LGBT Sacred Space Opens for Worship and Life-cycle Events
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
New Deadlines New Deadlines
"New Practices New York 2016" through 07.23.16
On View On View
05.09.16: Geoff Manaugh, editor and founder of BLDGBLOG and author of A Burglar’s Guide to the City (center) was joined by /Center for Architecture Executive Director Benjamin Prosky (left) and Tom Vanderbilt, author of You May Also Like It: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice, at the May Oculus Book Talk.
Sighted Sighted
Classifieds Classifieds
Changes Editor's Note
Maria Torres-Springer, president and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), at the Center for Architecture.
Policy Pulse: NYCEDC’s Maria Torres-Springer: Advancing Architecture One Industry at a Time Policy Pulse
Ekaterina Zavyalova, Co-founder, FOAM, Architectural Designer, CDR Studio; George Valdes, VP Product, IrisVR; Ian Harris, Founder, Arbuckle Industries; David Basulto, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, ArchDaily; and Benjamin Prosky, Executive Director, AIANY/Center for Architecture
Challenging the Entrenched Conventions of Architecture At the Center for Architecture
Damon Rich, Founding Principal, Hector Design Service, joined Nina Rappaport, Publications Director, Yale School of Architecture, for the March Oculus Book Talk.
Oculus Book Review: Vertical Urban Factory Factory by Nina Rappaport Book Reviews
1 - “Music is liquid architecture; Architecture is frozen music”
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
Center for Architecture Grants and Scholarships Center News
New Deadlines New Deadlines
"New Practices New York 2016," opening 05.12.16
On View On View
04.14.16: At “Legends: 3 Harlem Architects, 4 Decades,” Percy Griffin, AIA, Principal, Griffin Architect and Planner; Arhthur Symes, NOMA; and Francis L. Turner, RA, Principal, Francis L. Turner Architect and Planner, explored their work and opportunities as architects of color in relation to their community with Jack Travis, FAIA, Founder, Jack Travis Studio and AIANY Board Secretary.
Sighted Sighted
Classifieds Classifieds
AIANY, AIANJ & AIANYS Work with PANYNJ to Improve Bus Terminal Competition Brief to Benefit Architects and the Public From the Executive Director
#PromoteTheVote Policy Pulse
4 World Trade Center by Maki and Associates, 2014 Building of the Day
Call for Buildings of the Day Editor's Soapbox
Jacob van Rijs, Principal, MVRDV
The Raucous Rows and Ecstatic Stacks of MVRDV At the Center for Architecture
Klaus Jacob, Geophysicist and Urban Environmental Disaster Expert at Columbia University, returns to the Center for Architecture.
Hindsight Plus Foresight for a Future Requiring Insight At the Center for Architecture
Slide-tracing allows students to identify shapes within the façade of a building. These shapes are also identified as important building parts that become part of students’ new architectural vocabulary, reinforced by a walking tour in Greenwich Village.
Our Visual Language of Architecture Learning by Design
Kirsten Childs
In Memoriam: Kirsten Anne Childs (1943-2016) In Memoriam
1 - Towers of Justice
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
New Deadlines New Deadlines
“AIANY 2016 Design Awards,” opening 04.15.16
On View About Town
04.04.16: AIANY Architecture for Justice Committee organizers gathered with architects of the Staten Island Courthouse at the Center for Architecture to discuss how the new structure celebrates the civic traditions of our judicial system. (l-r) Jeff Hyman, AIA, RicciGreene Associates; Christopher Halloran, AIA, Ennead Architects; Kristy Gasparino, AIA, LEED AP, AIANY Architecture for Justice; Susan T. Rodriguez, FAIA, Ennead Architects; and Frank Greene, FAIA, RicciGreene Associates.
Sighted Sighted
Classifieds Classifieds
Editor’s Note Editor's Note