A Durham firm’s leap

Mar. 07, 2014 @ 11:48 AM

Like so many firms in Durham and the Research Triangle, the Freelon Group spreads its influence and expertise across the country.

The 45-person architecture firm Phil Freelon founded in 1990 has designed buildings from the iconic mall in the nation’s capital to Mission Street in San Francisco. Its many accolades have included 52 American Institute of Architects (AIA) national, regional, state and local design awards, the AIA Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture, the 2001 North Carolina Outstanding Firm Award “in recognition of outstanding service and design excellence.”

The firm’s national reach took a substantial leap this week with its acquisition by Perkins+Will. The acquisition will put Freelon on the board of the global architecture and design firm. He will become its managing director for North Carolina operations, overseeing the existing Freelon Group staff as well as Perkins+Will’s 18-person Morrisvile office (which will be combined with Freelon’s Durham office) and a 15-person staff in Charlotte.

“A global firm with a strong presence in the U. S. and abroad is definitely a plus, in our view, because it gives our design work a broader platform,” Freelon said Tuesday when the acquisition was announced.

"By joining Perkins+Will, we can offer our clients in North Carolina and around the world a full spectrum of services for just about any type of project," Freelon said. "The firms are ideally matched as we share a dedication to design excellence and commitment to social responsibility."

For their part, Perkins+Will’s leaders embraced the contributions they said Freelon and his colleagues would bring to that firm, which employs about 1,500 people.

“With Phil Freelon, his experienced team of 40 designers, and other professionals who intend to join Perkins+Will, we look forward to offering clients a deeper level of cultural design expertise, " said Perkins+Will President and CEO Phil Harrison. "Phil (Freelon) will further strengthen our leadership team and is a natural complement to the design excellence culture at Perkins+Will."

Freelon said his firm’s extensive work in libraries, museums and cultural centers will broaden Perkins+Will’s capabilities in those areas, and in turn, his group will benefit from the larger firm’s “expertise in areas where we are growing and where we would like to grow more” such as health care, science and technology.

Perhaps the highest profile project in which the Freelon Group is engaged will be a major Washington, D.C., attraction, occupying the last available space on the National Mall. It is one of four firms designing the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Freelon has been an active and engaged member of Durham’s business and civic communities even as he has grown his firm first to national and now international stature.

It is yet another example of Durham’s place in the world that his firm has ramped up to a new level by joining Perkins+Will, and we both congratulate his team on the move and wish them well as they move forward.