Phil Freelon: Community Builder

Phil Freelon: Community Builder

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One of my influences that goes back to my days in Philadelphia came from my grandfather, Allan Freelon Sr., who was a painter during the Harlem Renaissance period. And I remember being encouraged and intrigued about art and the visual arts, particularly. I really began to understand myself as an architect through studies at NC State, at the College of Design. It really did give me the confidence to know that and I could excel in this field by being in that environment and doing very well while I was there. I made some choices in my career about the kinds of buildings that I would want to pursue, that I want to design And so that includes things like schools and college, university projects, public sector work like the Durham County Human Services Complex, museums and libraries. Why? Because they enhance the communities that they’re in, there’s a connection to education and health. One of the interesting stories about this building when it first opened is there was a woman who came in and she wanted to know Where the Human Services facility was, that she had found the museum, but wanted to say, “Well, where is he the actual Health and Human Services complex?” She thought she was in a different sort of building, and that was a compliment to us because it said that we have created a place of beauty and one that really had a resonance with folks, everyday people who would come in in the space and feel very uplifted by. These structures we design ought to, in our minds, tell a story and they ought to be able to convey the vision and mission of the institution or the client that you’re working with. We believe that it’s not enough to simply put a beautiful wrapper around a gallery or around a library or around a public building or educational facility. Anyone can do that, make a pretty box. But we want the building to contribute in some way to the the idea and the vision of that client or that institution.

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