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Phil Freelon
Most Creative People 2017

Phil Freelon

Design Director, North Carolina, Perkins+Will

For bridging architecture's diversity gap

 “Music and sports have great examples of African Americans who have had transcendent impact,” says veteran architect Phil Freelon. “But not architecture.” Freelon has spent his career trying to change that. Having recently won accolades as lead architect of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, part of the Smithsonian, he is now engaged in various projects that are similarly focused on the black experience. With Raleigh’s Freedom Park, Freelon is using public space adjacent to North Carolina’s state capitol to acknowledge the accomplishments of the state’s most prominent African Americans. And for his renovation of a park in a historically black Houston neighborhood, he spent a year hosting workshops to understand what locals wanted. “I start with listening,” says Freelon, who is also designing an expansion for the Motown Museum, in Detroit. “Architecture and design is problem solving. If you don’t understand the question, you’ll never come up with a good answer.”

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