Phil Freelon passed away this week, here’s what he’s known for


(Photo Courtesy: Jason Davis)

Renowned architect Phil Freelon died on Tuesday, however his crowing design, the National Museum of African American History of Culture, will live on in Washington D.C.

The national African-American museum idea dates back to 1929 when President Herbert Hoover appointed a building commission, which Congress ultimately failed to authorize.

In 2003, President George W. Bush signed legislation for the museum to be built. Groundbreaking on the 5-acre site took place in February 2012.

The current site was selected in 2006 and the museum opened Sept. 24, 2016, in a ceremony led by President Barack Obama.

The museum is the 19th among the museums of the Smithsonian Institute. It’s also the newest on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The building’s total cost of construction and exhibition installations was $540 million. This total was funded by both the Smithsonian and by federal funds.

The theater is named after Oprah Winfrey.

The museum’s collection was built from scratch and originally opened with 12 exhibits. It has about 85,000 square feet of exhibition space with 12 exhibitions and 183 videos housed on five floors.

Some of the items on display range from 40 artifacts of Harriet Tubman to a PT-13D Stearman biplane trainer aircraft operated by the United States Army Air Forces and used in 1944 for training members of the Tuskegee Airmen.

The museum exterior is bronze-colored with cast aluminum divided into 3,600 panels that create the signature exterior feature called the Corona.

In 2007, the museum became the first major museum to open on the Web before completing a physical structure. The web site included the museum’s first exhibit, mounted in New York City.

Forty percent of the museum’s programming will be found in the five stories that rise above ground. But 60 percent of the 400,000-square-foot building is actually below grade. The National Museum of African American History and Culture rises five stories up and plunges five stories down.

To grow a collection, the organizers came up with the unique idea of “Saving African-American Treasures,” which was a 15-city tour launched in 2009. During this effort, they encouraged Americans to donate family heirlooms to the museum. Over half of the museum’s 37,000 artifacts came from donations.

Lead architect Philip Freelon and lead designer David Adjaye, along with their architectural team Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smith Group, won an international competition to design the NMAAHC building, which sits on a five-acre site. The bronze-colored building, shaped in three tiers, reportedly resembles crowns used in Yoruba art.

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