Updated: Sep 22, 2019
Leading up to June 19th, communities across the country celebrated the historic significance of the Juneteenth holiday. For their part, members of Bmore NOMA boarded a charter bus to the Eastern Shore for a lecture and tour of the recently completed Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Church Creek, MD. This tour has been a goal of ours for some time, and it was exciting to finally make it happen!
The Visitor Center is reachable in a quick two-hour jaunt from Baltimore. Chris Elcock, AIA, greeted us upon arrival -- an Associate Principal at GWWO, he served as the Project Architect on the Tubman Center project. Our trip began with lunch overlooking the same landscape that Harriet Tubman traversed so many years ago. Chris introduced the project’s design by pointing out the design strategies used by landscape architect Mahan Rykiel to emphasize the northern & southern views, two directions of extreme importance to Tubman’s journeys. Guiding us through the design process, he discussed the intentionality behind the Visitor Center’s location and the partnership fostered by GWWO and project stakeholders. It was inspiring to see how Tubman’s life and legacy has been incorporated into every aspect of the building, from the timber roof structure to the placement of the windows.
The purpose of the Visitor Center extends beyond the four pitched roof masses of the museum, out into an immersive experience on the grounds. Through the winding pathways, Chris encouraged the group to put themselves in the shoes of freedom seekers, navigating unfamiliar terrain and trying to decipher between friends and foes. To conclude our tour, we traversed through another untouched landscape, the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge Center. On the 400th anniversary of the first ship arriving on the shores of Virginia carrying enslaved Africans, this trip could not have been a more powerful celebration of our history and how far we have come.
(Video Credit to Bmore NOMA Member, Aaron Rice)
Melanie Ray (AIA, NOMA, NCARB, LEED Green Assoc.)
Nikolas Hill (NOMA)