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Auburn’s new culinary center provides real-world education

University Buildings

Auburn’s new culinary center provides real-world education

The six-story building integrates academic and revenue-generating elements.

By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | October 7, 2022
Auburn University's Culinary Science Center
Auburn University's 142,000-sf Tony & Libba Rane Culinary Science Center in Alabama combines learning facilities with functioning hospitality operations. Images credit: Thomas Watkins Photography

On Sept. 15, Auburn University’s School of Hospitality Management held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of the Tony & Libba Rane Culinary Science Center, a six-floor, 142,000-sf mixed-use building that includes a boutique hotel, culinary and commercial baking labs, a teaching restaurant, a spa, functioning rooftop garden, food hall, café, courtyard and concierge-style hotel suites.

Cooper Carry designed this project, which was built by Bailey-Harris Construction. The construction included mass timber components that were donated by Jimmy Rane, president and CEO of Great Southern Wood in Abbeville, Ala. (The building is named in honor of Rane’s parents.) The Center is part of Auburn’s College of Human Sciences, which offers students opportunities to train with leading chefs and hospitality experts. Ithaka Hospitality serves as the commercial operator in partnership with the College of Human Sciences.

“As a land-grant institution, our mission is to put practical knowledge into the hands of those who can use it, create economic opportunities, and improve the quality of our lives. I believe the Rane Culinary Science Center will do just that,” said Christopher B. Roberts, Auburn University’s president.

Click here for a virtual tour of the building.


Culinary Science Center restaurant and food hall
The Culinary Science Center includes a restaurant and food hall that the university students run.

The Center blends academic and revenue-generating elements. The building’s first floor focuses on culinary sciences. A fine-dining restaurant called 1856, and the food hall Hey Day Market, with nine vendor stalls, are on this floor, which also features a two-story wine room with an international stock.

One of the vendor stalls serves as an incubator where students can develop business concepts and even launch start-up operations.

The building’s second and third floors focus on beverage experiences, and include a wine appreciation learning center with 50 tasting tables, distilled beverages classroom, a brewing lab, expo kitchen, and collaborative spaces. The third floor has several adaptive learning classrooms and a culinary lab with AV equipment for honing students’ skills at photographing F&B creations to leverage social media.

The Culinary Center's expo kitchen
Leading chefs serve as instructors at the Center's expo kitchen.

On the top three floors, The Laurel Hotel & Spa offers 16 rooms, 10 suites, six residences, a spa, fitness studio, rooftop pool, and yoga pavilion. The hotel provides students with learning how to operate a hospitality facility. The 41,000-sf rooftop gardens were designed and are maintained by Auburn University’s College of Agriculture’s horticulture department.

In forming the design team, Cooper Carry drew upon the expertise of the firm’s Higher Education Studio, Hospitality Studio, The Johnson Studio, Retail Studio and Science + Technology Studio. Several Cooper Carry designers who are also Auburn University graduates worked on the project.

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