William Maffett – Auburn University
What culinary student wouldn’t like to learn how to learn how to cook under the eyes of a master chef in a world-class educational setting? (As long as it isn’t Gordon Ramsey of Hell’s Kitchen?)
But that is just one of many options for hospitality students at Auburn University’s forthcoming $95.4 million culinary center approved by the Auburn University Board of Trustees in February 2019. Complete with culinary laboratories, a teaching restaurant, a boutique hotel, spa, food hall, leased units and a brewery, it’s innovative projects like this that bring joy to campus architect William Maffett.
Since joining the university in 2013, Maffett has put his own stamp on campus design: blending Auburn’s rich history with world-class innovation.
With multiple campus projects to his credit—including the AIA award-winning Broun Hall and Davidson Pavilion renovation and the recently completed Horton-Hardgrave Hall, part of the university’s Harbert College of Business—Maffett waxed enthusiastic about his role during an interview with Blueprint this past November.
“I love being able to have an impact in all areas of my work,” says Maffett, a proud Auburn alum himself. “My passion for improving other people’s lives is what gets me out of bed in the morning.”
Getting down to business
Founded in 1856 as the East Alabama Male College, Auburn’s history as a public research and land-grant university is unrivaled in the state. Renamed in 1960, its enrollment includes 30,000 students and 1,260 faculty members, making it the second largest university in Alabama, second only to the state’s eponymous university.
Since his arrival, Maffett has overseen more than 125 projects and studies from an equestrian complex to football stadium renovations. His most recent work—on the $45 million Horton-Hargrave Hall—represents a career high-water mark.
Started in 2014, the 105,000-square-foot structure was planned to be adjacent to Lowder Hall, the pre-existing space for the Harbert College of Business. The goal, Maffett says, was to expand and upgrade a business campus space to a world class business academic complex on the corner of Donahue Drive and Magnolia Avenue.
Before starting, Maffett’s team toured southern universities such as Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia and Wake Forest to draw inspiration—not only in design, but also in the latest teaching protocols.
“It’s really innovative, incorporating various hybrid teaching models into the space,” he says.
Exploring the space
On the ground level, a large atrium—complete with student lounge space and a dining services venue—faces an open-air courtyard (what Maffett calls an “active living room”) where students can gather. Head upstairs, you’re met with an eye-catching “touchdown space” (this is a football school, after all) and two “library quiet” reading commons featuring balconies off the front of the building for students to study.
“The balconies give the feel of a real southern front porch, offering students a relaxing place to sit—a favorite for students outside the program as well,” he says.
Throughout the building are individual study spaces and collaborative team conference rooms. With multiple types of teaching spaces to adapt to different learning processes, each area is equipped with technology from televisions to wall monitors and projectors, to facilitate presentations.
Two of the EASL classrooms even have color-coded wall monitors that correlate with group seating in study pods that surround the teacher in the center of the room.
“Each group can present its own point of view to any problem discussed for actively engaged learning,” he says.
All told, Maffett explains the school has four types of classrooms—the case study, hybrid, flat flex, and EASL models. A case study classroom design has a horseshoe-shaped table and chair arrangement; a hybrid classroom is where students can face forward to work at their own desks or rotate around to collaborate with others; and a flat flexible classroom can be modified to convert into a traditional classroom for “chalk and talk”, or even one large table where students and professors can sit together.
“On any given day you will see different configurations,” he says. “It provides great opportunities for student-teacher interactions.”
But that’s not all
The building’s Broadway Event Space and Theatre gives educators a large multi-purpose room, complete with a stage and accompanying mezzanine space. While retractable seating makes the space ideal for something like a “TED Talk,” the space can be converted back to accommodate a classroom—or banquet dining options.
On the roof is the Gavin Roof Terrace another place for students to unwind with views of the school’s iconic football stadium, Samford Hall and the Harbert College of Business courtyard. On another section of the roof of the building is an executive level conference room, what Maffett calls a “jewel box” fully enclosed in glass. There, the college can cater executive board meetings.
“Throughout our design we have maintained Auburn’s traditional architectural style, addressing the external side of the campus when you approach the building,” Maffett says, “but facing the interior courtyard is a huge wall of glass that reflects the business face of the complex.”
Cooking up culinary
It won’t be long before the smell of southern barbeque wafts across the quad from the Rane Culinary Science Center.
With the bidding process underway this fall, Maffett expects the construction of the 142,000-square-foot space to start in March of 2020, with completion slated for 2022.
The site will include culinary laboratories for the university’s College of Human Sciences; a 5-Diamond boutique hotel and fitness center; a food hall; a teaching restaurant with a world-renowned resident chef; a spa; rooftop pool, garden and bar; a brewing science laboratory and third-party brewery; and large multi-purpose classrooms—all to support culinary, hospitality and spa management programs.
Added to that are specialized spaces for beverage appreciation tastings for wine and distilled spirits; a small distillery; and a series of indoor-outdoor “incubator” spaces to allow entrepreneurial graduates to test their recipes, such as the ever-favorite BBQ.
“A building of its size and scope doesn’t exist anywhere in the world,” Maffett says. “It’s the first of its kind for teaching this curriculum.”
Schools may be great settings for learning, but much of Maffett’s education in architecture was in his blood. As a fourth-generation architect, he descends from a line of master builders.
Attending Auburn, he graduated with two of his four degrees from the school, earning a bachelor’s in architecture and a bachelor’s of science in business administration in 2007. Immediately afterward, he ran his father’s architecture and structural engineering business, Maffett-Bouton & Associates, for almost seven years.
When his father inadvertently laid down a challenge by saying, “no architect is good at business,” Maffett’s passion for learning led to earning two additional master’s degrees, an MBA and a master’s of science in information systems—all while working full-time.
“I welcome a challenge,” he joked.
Now going into his seventh year in administration on campus, he’s inspired by the setting that’s become a second home to him.
“I may not see every successful interaction of a teacher inspiring a student, but nothing makes me happier than walking through the spaces we’ve been able to create,” he says.
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