Case Studies

Lawrence Rubin – Florida State University

Building a Florida center of student life

Ask anyone who attended a large state university what their favorite part of college was, and you’ll get a variety of answers. From getting an education that hopefully leads to a successful career and making lifelong friends to going to football and basketball games and parties, the college experience is vast.

At Florida State University, that experience is enhanced by the on-campus facilities and amenities built and installed by Director of Design and Construction Lawrence Rubin and his team of about 25. Rubin has spent more than 30 years spearheading construction projects on the school’s Tallahassee campus, as well its satellite campuses.

Lawrence Rubin | Director of Design and Construction | Florida State University

Lawrence Rubin | Director of Design and Construction | Florida State University

“My background in architecture allows me to easily create an aesthetic that connects with everything else on our campus,” Rubin says. “Having a consistent architectural theme, knitted together by shaded walkways, courtyards, and plazas is something we’ve focused on.”

Right now, Rubin is leading the construction of a new $150 million student center and a new science building. He’s also planning a new college of business.

The on-campus experience

Construction of the new student center began in May 2019 and is expected to conclude in the spring of 2022. The project cost is $150 million, and the work is being done to replace a student union that was first built in the 1950s and modified many times over the years. When the current union was built, FSU had around 10,000 students; now the school’s enrollment is more than 42,000 students.

FSU has a vibrant and lively residential culture on campus, so the new student center will give students living on campus a lot of opportunities to socialize, make connections and participate in activities throughout their college life, Rubin says. There will be larger ballrooms and meeting spaces, areas for student government and activities, a food court, a bowling alley, a sit-down restaurant and an underground night club.

Lawrence Rubin | Director of Design and Construction | Florida State University

For inspiration, Rubin and his team visited student centers at the University of Florida in Gainesville, the University of South Florida in Tampa, North Carolina State, Duke University, and the University of Tennessee. North Caroline State, for example, has a dairy facility that makes homemade ice cream that inspired Rubin as he planned the food court.

“We wanted to continue FSU traditions and, so, we have a plaza space for Market Wednesday and other outside activities,” Rubin says. “We also kept our bowling alley and “Club Down Under” for music and live entertainment.”

The pandemic continues to affect construction and Rubin’s department continues to experience supply chain and labor issues. Now, “we’re down the to the last few months, and steadily getting there,” Rubin says.

Living the college life

In August, the architecture and engineering team resumed design on the new $88 million science structure, dubbed the Interdisciplinary Research & Commercialization Building, or IRCB. The funding came from the Florida Legislature and the FSU Research Foundation, and Rubin says the building will serve as a collaboration space for researchers in a variety of fields.

The IRCB will be located on the school’s southwest campus in a cluster of buildings called the Innovation Park corridor that also includes the school’s college of engineering, Mag Lab, and other research and science buildings.

Lawrence Rubin | Director of Design and Construction | Florida State University

Rubin says the 116,000-square-foot facility will have three floors of mostly open, flexible labs big enough to accommodate 30 research groups, 24 postdoctoral researchers and 155 graduate and undergraduate students. The building is designed to encourage interactions in labs, core facilities and collaboration spaces. He says the building is expected to open in 2024.

Legacy Hall will be the new home of FSU’s college of business and one of the largest academic spaces on campus. Construction is expected to begin in fall 2022 if the university raises the remainder of the $44 million in private funding for the project.

Legacy Hall, Rubin says, will include five floors spread across more than 218,000 square feet. There will be a central atrium for connection and collaboration, a 300-seat auditorium for classes and other events, a financial trading room, and a multipurpose event space.

“One of the most appealing parts of my job is the ability to work on a variety of building types, such as buildings for art, music, science, research, housing, athletics and more,” Rubin says.

Creating a career

Rubin is a native of Chicago and graduated with a degree in architecture from the University of Florida, FSU’s athletics nemesis. He worked for four years in South Florida as a project architect before enrolling in an architecture master’s program at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. Rubin worked in the private sector after earning his graduate degree and never aspired to be a state employee.

“Things slowed down at that job and there was an opportunity to come to Florida State and help with its new $100 million university center complex,” Rubin says. “I thought I’d stay about five years and then leave, but they gave me a lot of other things to do.”

Lawrence Rubin | Director of Design and Construction | Florida State University

Since joining Florida State’s facilities and construction department in 1991 as a part-time project manager, Rubin has been involved with every type of project, including work on the Seminole football team’s Doak Campbell Stadium, student housing, campus swimming pools, a medical school, parking garages and parking areas, laboratories, historical renovations and countless other projects.

Now, Rubin is in the fourth quarter of his career, and he says he’s enjoying working with talented younger staffers and mentoring them.

“I’m teaching them what to look for, plan ahead, how to better see potential problems on the horizon, the challenges of the job and how to maneuver though the projects, and to communicate better,” Rubin says. “Aside from all the work I’ve done, my successors will also be part of my legacy, and I’m proud of that.”

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. IX 2021 Edition here.

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