Professor Receives Graham Foundation Grant for Freelon Project

Categories: News Tags: Architecture
Emily Makas will co-edit a book about the life and work of architect Phillip Freelon.

Associate Professor of Architectural History Emily Makaš, with her research partner Arthur J. Clement, has received a 2024 grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. The $10,000 grant will fund archival research and additional preparations for their book project, Philip G. Freelon: An Architect of Relationships and Stories.

front of museum in Baltimore that Freelon designedThe book, which Makaš and Clement will edit, is the first book to document and assess the career and work of Philip Freelon (1953-2019), the nationally acclaimed North Carolina architect who in 2009 became the first African American selected for the American Institute of Architect’s Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Buildings. In a career that spanned more than four decades, Freelon designed museums and cultural facilities focused on the African American experience, including the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, Emancipation Park in Houston, and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte. Perhaps most notably, he also led the design team for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Combining scholarly analysis, personal reflection, biography, and professional photography, Philip G. Freelon: An Architect of Relationships and Stories will thoroughly document Freelon’s body of work, explore his role as a design leader and diversity advocate, and demonstrate how his identity and background led to the foregrounding of Black culture in his designs.

Emily Makaš is the graduate program director for the MS in Architecture and a founding co-director of the Center for Community, Heritage, and the Arts (CHArt), a pilot research center in the College of Arts + Architecture.  She led the curation and design team for an exhibition on Freelon’s works under the title Container / Contained: Phil Freelon Design Strategies for Telling African American Stories, which premiered at the Gantt Center in 2021 before traveling to the North Carolina Museum of Art in 2022 and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee in 2023. The exhibition will next be on view in spring 2025 at the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American History and Culture in Atlanta, which Freelon designed. Learn more about the exhibition in this video.

front of Auburn Avenue Research Library in Atlanta designed by Freelon
Auburn Avenue Research Library for African American History and Culture, Atlanta. Photo by Emily G. Makas, 2023.

An independent architectural historian, Arthur Clement was the first African American to graduate from North Carolina State University’s School of Design with a bachelor’s degree in architecture and had a 50-year career with several architectural, construction, and program management firms. He currently serves on the advisory committee for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative.

Makaš and Clement are among 56 international recipients of the Graham Foundation’s “Grants for Individuals” this year. Founded in 1956, the Graham Foundation fosters the development and exchange of diverse and challenging ideas about architecture and its role in the arts, culture, and society.

Pictured above right, Freelon’s Reginald Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History, Baltimore. Photo by Greg Snyder, 2021.