The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center has been recognized as a winner of the AIA Chesapeake Bay Chapter’s Annual Design Awards Program.
The project was honored with a Merit Award in the Non-Residential New Construction Category. The awards jury from AIA West Virginia admired the project's design, saying, “This project shows a symbiotic relationship between the site design and building. The design is strongly organized around a building circulation spine that runs North-South with museum halls housing the rich stories along the way. The project is a great marriage of programmatic functionality and historic symbolism."
Conceived as a series of abstracted forms that can be interpreted in many ways, the new facility immerses visitors in the story of Tubman’s life. Joined by a shared entry plaza and terrace, the two structures of the complex, one exhibit and one administrative, frame a view north, expressing the importance of traveling northward to escape the circumstances of slavery. The space between the buildings grows wider as visitors venture north—a metaphor for freedom—and the view to the south is truncated by the splay of the buildings, suggesting a sense of oppression similar to that associated with the slaveholding states.