Durham architect battling ALS starts foundation for research, support

Phil Freelon. ( Perkins+Will )

Phil Freelon. (Perkins+Will)

At any given time, 20,000 Americans battle amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the degenerative neurological condition more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Renowned Durham architect Phil Freelon is one of them.

Just six months before Freelon’s most recent project, the Museum of African-American History and Culture, opened on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., he was diagnosed with ALS.

"Obviously, it was a shock and a disappointment," Freelon said recently. "I didn't know much about ALS and Lou Gehrig's disease, so I immediately, my wife and I, started researching what it meant."

Freelon said he has experienced problems with his legs and, within three to five years, he could suffer muscle loss and paralysis.

"I’m walking with a cane now. It’s a little more difficult getting around," he said.

Freelon is a man who has made a mark with his designs – he's currently working on a Motown museum in Detroit with legendary music producer Berry Gordy – and realizing that he soon may no longer be able to put a pen to paper, he has started the Design A World Without ALS foundation.

excerpt © 2016 Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc. All rights reserved.