nARCHITECTS have designed a new Equal Rights Heritage Center to be built in Auburn, NY. The town is one of the most important places in 19th century American history, as two of the most prominent equal rights crusaders of the era—Harriet Tubman and William Seward—called Auburn home. The museum will house a permanent exhibit and will comprise a 7,500-square-foot building that includes both exhibition and community spaces. It will showcase “the role the State and New Yorkers have played in the struggle for women’s rights, abolition, civil rights and the more recent efforts for LGBTQ rights,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.

The center is located in the South Street National Register Historic District, directly across from city hall and next to the William H. Seward House Museum. Auburn is also home to Harriet Tubman National Historical Park.

The design treats the unique location as a part of the exhibition by introducing visitors to their immediate surroundings through large glazed openings and by engaging views of the nearby Seward House Museum, Memorial City Hall, the historic YMCA and Westminster Church, and a new plaza and landscape. These vistas are highlighted through openings along a board-formed concrete perimeter which connects the interior exhibition spaces. The exterior relates to the scale of nearby houses with four one-story volumes of different heights and alternating roof pitches which are punctuated by triangular courtyards.

nArchitects design for the Equal Rights Heritage Center in Auburn, NY. (Courtesy nArchitects)

“Sitting at the crossroads of Central New York and the Finger Lakes, Auburn has a played a unique role in New York State history as people and ideas traveled across the state,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “The city was home to great New Yorkers like Harriet Tubman and William Seward who fought for equal rights, and whose homes are now landmarks. The new Equal Rights Heritage Center will pay tribute to their efforts, and the sacrifices of the many who sought equality, while encouraging travelers to visit all that this region has to offer.”

The center is funded primarily by a $10 million dollar grant as part of the Central NY Rising initiative, a state initiative to spark economic and community growth in the region. Another $889,000 will be allocated from the Department of State grant through the Local Water Revitalization Program, and $500,000 will be allocated from the Department of Transportation for road construction around the site.

“The Equal Rights Heritage Center is another example of the importance that New York State places on educating and recognizing its history and honoring those who served as pioneers before us so that we can become trailblazers for future generations. When we know where we come from we can understand where we need to go,” said New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey.

The expected completion time is fall 2018.

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