Obama to speak at Freelon project’s groundbreaking

February 21, 2012
By Chris Saunders
Photo by Peter Hutson.

Photo by Peter Hutson.

President Barack Obama will deliver remarks tomorrow at the groundbreaking ceremony for the latest Smithsonian project, one that is being designed by a team led by  architect Phil Freelon ’75.

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture will be the first national museum solely dedicated to chronicling and celebrating African-American history and culture. It’s a $500-million project that is set to be completed in 2015.

Construction starts this winter on the site, which is one of the last building sites on the National Mall, between the Washington Monument and the National Museum of American History. The NMAAHC will also be the first green building on the National Mall.

We profiled Freelon in our Autumn 2011 issue. He leads the 32-consultant team of Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup on the Smithsonian project. He talked extensively about the NMAAHC’s design and its influence.

The building will extend upward into the sky, looking like a three-tiered crown. The concept originates in Yoruban art and architecture, and the angles of the corona match the 17-and-a-half degree angle on the capstone of the Washington Monument.

And although he believes the project is his pinnacle, Freelon said he still has much more to do. “I’m in here not to get to a certain destination, but to make sure the journey and the path is a meaningful one and that at the end of the day, we’ve made a positive impact,” he said.

His firm, The Freelon Group, which is based in Durham, N.C., is also working on the new Gregg Museum of Art & Design, slated to open in 2014 in the chancellor’s residence on Hillsborough Street.

Freelon said in the article that such projects fall in line with his professional philosophy. “We have a standard that says the building should contribute positively to the community in which it’s built,” he said. “In our measure libraries, museums and educational buildings do that. And prisons and strip shopping centers don’t.”

An exhibit celebrating Freelon’s designs opened earlier this month at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. It will be open until April.

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One Response to “Obama to speak at Freelon project’s groundbreaking”

  1. Richard Curtis says:

    There was also a very complimentary article on Phil in this past Sunday’s Washington Post along with articles about the new museum. Go to washingtonpost.com and search on “Freelon” to see them all.

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