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National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Cincinnati, OH

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Cincinnati, OH

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is the centerpiece of Cincinnati’s revitalized riverfront district. Rooted in stories of the American slave experience, it’s a cultural destination. It also sheds light on global slavery and inclusive freedom of today.

The building’s design and surrounding landscape reference the journey of slaves escaping across the land. Features included winding paths through the interior and north-south free-running walls of the site along the Ohio River. There’s also curving forms, undulating building contours, and materials selected for weight, permanence, and earthy characteristics. Combined these features recall the experience of overland flight and the exuberance of freedom pursued.

Three buildings make up the Center. Exhibits, story theaters, a multi-use theater, educational facilities, a research institute, a café and a gift shop are all features of the Center. The curved walls of the pavilions create avenues for those outside the building to pass through the permeable edifice. This references Cincinnati’s role as a historic Underground Railroad way station on the journey to freedom.

Importantly for many, Cincinnati was a path to freedom. This building honors those who fought for freedom today and in years past.

Like the National Underground Freedom Center project, Bora cares deeply for community builds. Read more about our Arts and Cultural projects here.




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