Philip Freelon ’75 recently took time to talk with a group of students in Houston about what it takes to be a successful architect.
He should know. Freelon, whose firm is based in Durham, has enjoyed tremendous success as an architect. With several high-profile projects under his belt, Freelon is currently working on the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. It is to be located on the National Mall, next to the Washington Monument. Freelon also is working on the transformation of a public park in Houston.
Freelon’s advice to the students at Ryan Middle School in Houston, according to an account in the Houston Chronicle, was simple and direct:
- Present yourself well. “Notice,” he said, “I have on a tie, and I’m neatly dressed. If your jeans are sagging, if you have tattoos all over your body, you’re not going to get the job.”
- Communicate well. “You can’t say ‘um’ and ‘er.’ You can’t pick your nose. You have to look people in the eye when you’re talking to them.”
- Build a reputation for integrity. “Do what you say. Be honest. Treat people the way you want to be treated.”
When one of the students asked if it was hard to be an architect, Freelon let the class in on a secret.
“I went to a public school,” he said. “I’m not a super-smart person. But I work hard, and I love what I do. That’s all. That’s the secret.”