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National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Cincinnati, OH

Designed as the centerpiece of Cincinnati’s revitalized riverfront district, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is a cultural destination rooted in stories of the American slave experience that also sheds light on global slavery and inclusive freedom. The building’s design and surrounding landscape reference the journey of slaves escaping across the land. Winding paths through the interior; north-south free-running walls on the site; curving forms; undulating building contours; and materials selected for weight, permanence, and earthy characteristics recall the experience of overland flight and the exuberance of freedom pursued.

Organized into three pavilions, the Center features exhibits, story theaters, a multi-use theater, educational facilities, a research institute, a café and a gift shop. The curved walls of the pavilions create avenues for those outside the building to pass through the permeable edifice, referencing Cincinnati’s role as a historic Underground Railroad waystation on the journey to freedom.




Unbuilt Citation, AIA Portland
Merit Award, AIA Indianapolis


Blackburn Architects
Auerbach Pollock Friedlander
Martha Schwartz
Charlier Clark & Linard
Burgess & Niple
Auerbach + Glasow
The Talaske Group