Auburn University opens doors to Research and Innovation Campus in Huntsville

Facility features art objects from Auburn’s Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art

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Auburn University expanded its footprint and opened its doors to a new facility in Huntsville on Tuesday with the grand-opening celebration of the Research and Innovation Campus.

The nine-acre property, located at 345 Voyager Way NW in Huntsville’s Cummings Research Park, is in close proximity to numerous defense and aerospace collaborators, as well as the Bridge Street commercial development and the Gate 9 entrance to Redstone Arsenal.

The grand-opening celebration comes on the heels of the September announcement of the university’s plan to build a Gulf Coast Engineering Research Station in Orange Beach.

“Much like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin did in 1969, today is a monumental day for Auburn as we plant our flag in Huntsville,” said Steve Taylor, interim dean of Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “We might even say that a different eagle has landed.”

The property, which formerly housed LogiCore, is well equipped to support applied research and development work for Huntsville/Redstone customers, as well as hosting alumni and development events. Designed to foster a new era of interagency and interdisciplinary collaboration necessary to secure the nation into the next century, the Auburn University Research and Innovation Campus will serve as a state-of-the-art, multi-million-dollar collaboration engine, conference center and research space that extends Auburn’s expertise and next-generation resources to the defense, space and law enforcement agencies.

“The Auburn University Research and Innovation Campus will be where today meets tomorrow,” said Auburn University President Christopher B. Roberts. “Huntsville has been, and will continue to be, one of the hotbeds for our graduates to work, our faculty to partner with and our students to explore. The facility will fast-track career connections that change the world, not only through the opportunity for next-generation, cross-domain collaboration among agencies, but by supplying our partners access to Auburn’s most promising young minds.”

Experimentation with co-located laboratories will allow Auburn research professionals and students to conduct cutting-edge research and development across a range of technology readiness levels to help customers overcome national security, aerospace and biotechnology challenges. These laboratories will facilitate expansion in Huntsville of high-profile Auburn research programs such as advanced manufacturing, additive manufacturing, biotechnology, quantum metrology, cyber and critical infrastructure security and assured position, navigation and timing. To elevate Auburn’s ability to conduct space research, facilities are available for use as an operations center for NASA, Department of Defense and private sector missions.

“As the largest city in the state, Huntsville is dedicated to also being the leader in jobs and economic development,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “Across the defense, aerospace, law enforcement, biotech and other sectors, Huntsville is quickly becoming a global leader in innovation, research and development as we unite our rich intellectual capital with new opportunities, such as this partnership with the Auburn University Research and Innovation Campus.”

Rose Allen, a 1985 Auburn industrial engineering graduate who serves as president of deciBel Research and formerly served as chair of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, also welcomed the Auburn University Research and Innovation Campus to the Rocket City.

“As the president of deciBel Research and someone who has spent their entire career in space and defense, I’ve seen firsthand the impact Auburn and its graduates have had on this community,” Allen said. “This is a special place made up of the brightest minds in the nation who are committed to making our world a better and safer place to live. And Huntsville just got better because Auburn is here.”

Mike DeMaioribus, who retired from Dynetics in 2016 as executive vice president of business operations and currently serves as the Auburn University Board of Trustees’ District 8 representative, said he is thrilled to see Auburn expand its partnership with a community he’s called home for more than 60 years.

“Our hope is this facility will quickly become the primary connection for the Huntsville community to Auburn University and will be the go-to destination for government and industry entities in the area looking to meet in an unbiased, trusted location for technical interchange meetings and other events,” DeMaioribus said.

In addition to the research and technical aspects, the Auburn Research and Innovation Campus also showcases rotating exhibits from the university’s Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art and original works by famed artist Gamaliel Rodríguez.

“In this building, we will also find limitless inspiration in humankind’s greatest achievements, as told, through art,” Roberts said. “This facility is for everyone … Our hope is that you, too, will call the Auburn University Research and Innovation Campus in Huntsville home.”

Bringing art to Auburn’s Huntsville campus

The Research and Innovation Campus is accentuated by more than 35 art objects from the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art’s collection, including new work by acclaimed artist Gamaliel Rodríguez.

This exhibition outreach initiative is the first in a developing series to share the art collection at other campus locations. Through this campus partnership, administrators seek to stimulate the exchange of ideas and enrich workplace culture by highlighting the intersection of the arts, science and engineering.

“These parallel disciplines have resulted in the greatest and most awe-inspiring advancements throughout history,” said Aaron Levi Garvey, Janet L. Nolan Director of Curatorial Affairs at Auburn’s art museum. “This multi-phase exhibition, ‘Surface to Air,’ tells that story, beginning with humankind’s first innovations on earth to space and advances yet to be discovered.”

Phase one includes works by Roger Brown, Enrique Martinez Celaya, Beverly Pepper, Maltby Sykes and Mildred Thompson. For its first commissioned artist, the museum selected Gamaliel Rodríguez, a U.S. Army veteran who uses felt and ballpoint pens to create photorealistic aerial views of industrial, military and civilian structures.

Focal points for the exhibition, one painting depicts the recognizable yet reimagined landscape of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. The second features the new facility with architectural modifications, including a rooftop greenhouse.

“From a real image, I start to work, and then I create my ideas, thinking about it from an imaginary perspective,” Rodríguez said. “Nanotechnology will be the future, so how can I make the building look futuristic? Technology and agriculture are coexisting together—it’s very ingrained in the history of the university. The building is evolving with the environment.”

Rodríguez said he studies plant life to cross-pollinate hybrid species that only exist in the lush vegetation of his work.

“The third piece Auburn has acquired, masterfully drawn in pen and ink, pushes the boundary of the medium,” Levi Garvey said. “With these ordinary materials, he explores memory, sense of place and human advances within engineering and science.”

Rodríguez will be featured in an upcoming group exhibition at The Whitney Museum of American Art in November. His work is also collected by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, SCAD Museum of Art and Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico.

“Looking ahead to the museum’s 20th anniversary in 2023, we welcome partnerships to share the university art collection at other campus sites,” said museum Executive Director Cindi Malinick. “Whether through tours of the Museum in Motion or extended loans like Huntsville, The Jule positions the collection as a campus resource for research, outreach and instruction.”

Located on Auburn’s campus, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art is the cultural heart of an Alabama public research institution serving students, faculty and the constituents of the Southeast. The university art collection includes works spanning the 17th to 21st centuries and is comprised of photographs, works on paper depicting the South, ceramics and Southern visionary art.

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Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.