Alumni Profile: Lauren Gwaltney ’05
Lauren Gwaltney, an alumna of Auburn’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture (APLA), was recently named Director of Higher Education at Williams Blackstock Associates in Birmingham, Alabama.
A 2005 graduate of APLA’s architecture program, she works on both the design and business sides of each project in her new role. “I lead the design team and provide expertise and thought leadership for higher education projects,” she explained. “Participating in business development and client engagement is also part of that role.”
As an architect with Williams Blackstock for the last nine years, Gwaltney has led many adaptive reuse projects, focusing on restoring vacant Birmingham buildings with an eye on sustainability. Since having been named Director of Higher Education, she has worked on several notable projects on Auburn’s campus, including the $27 million Mell Classroom Building, the Harbert College of Business’ Horton-Hardgrave Hall and the current renovation of The Village dormitory complex. She has also worked on projects at the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama-Birmingham and several community colleges. Her current projects include a new laboratory facility at Auburn University-Montgomery and a $30 million STEM classroom building at Wallace State Community College. She is also completing a program study for Auburn’s School of Aviation. “My favorite thing about education projects is coming back once a building is complete and seeing how the students and faculty use the spaces and make the building their own,” she stated. “Pedagogy is always evolving and so are the needs of the students. Being a part of helping meet these needs and contributing to the evolution of learning, even in the smallest way, is very rewarding.”
Originally from Florida, Gwaltney was first introduced to the city of Birmingham while spending her thesis year at APLA’s Urban Studio. She found that the exciting development going on in the city made her want to stay. “I had one of the best professors, Cheryl Morgan,” she stated. “She encouraged us to explore Birmingham and become involved in the community. Many local architectures firms support and are involved in the Urban Studio program. Having the opportunity to see the work these firms were doing made Birmingham an exciting city to call home.”
In 2022, Gwaltney was named to the Top 40 Under 40 by the Birmingham Business Journal. She is a former president of the Birmingham chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and currently serves as co-chair of its Women in Architecture group. This committee aims to engage and retain women in the architecture profession by offering mentoring programs for women in all stages of their careers.
Gwaltney says that her favorite projects at Auburn have been the construction of Horton-Hardgrave Hall and the Mell Classroom Building. She enjoys coming back to campus frequently and seeing how her alma mater is constantly changing. “It’s very rewarding to have the opportunity to work on a campus where I spent some of my favorite years. Auburn puts tremendous thought into the campus master plan and buildings. I honestly think it gets more beautiful every year.”