The Maplewood Guest House at Ball State University is again at the forefront of collaboration and innovation, assisting students in numerous ways by delivering immersive learning and hands-on, real-world experiences.

Once called an experiment, Maplewood Guest House (Maplewood) is flourishing in its sixth year due to multiple partnerships, collaborations with several Ball State colleges, and the work of David Martin, manager of Maplewood.

Mr. Martin reached out to the faculty at R. Wayne Estopinal College of Architecture and Planning (ECAP) to see if there were ways they could improve the grounds at Maplewood. After speaking with current residents at the facility, graduate students in Kevin Klinger’s iMade Seminar at Madjax (ARCH 634), Emily Rheinheimer, ’23, Noah Buening, ’23, and Ali Saefe, ’24, determined that an outdoor space where students could gather and relax was needed and prototyped designs incorporating the information and preferences from those at Maplewood.

“We got to know the residents at Maplewood and sought to learn what kinds of events and activities are held there,” said Ms. Rheinheimer. “We decided to design and create a deck along the northside ramp that fits into the context of the Maplewood Mansion and framed the grand Maple tree rooted there. We also designed the deck to mimic some of the design patterns found in the mansion.”

Students envisioned a tranquil space for studying and a place for events centered around the existing Maple tree at the site. Elements of that space included decking, lighting, seating patterned after leaves found on the property, and walkway improvements.

Constructed in 1898 for William C. Ball and his wife, Emma, the three-story Georgian-style mansion now houses I.U. School of Medicine students completing their clerkships in Muncie. The medical students cycle in 30-day stays through this hotel-like setting on the grounds of the Minnetrista Museum and Gardens thanks to a collaboration between Ball State, Indiana University School of Medicine, and the Ball Brothers Foundation.

Students in Property Management within the Miller College of Business (MCOB)’s Department of Applied Business Studies assist with operations and long-term management of the facility through the development of policies and procedures, technology innovations, social media, and Qualtrics surveys to measure resident satisfaction.

One of the primary goals for the Maplewood project is that, by providing residents with a positive living experience, combined with the many amenities provided and proximity to all parts of the city, these medical students will discover Muncie as a pleasant place to live and work. This initiative is a component of Optimus Primary, which works to enhance the health of Muncie residents and retain skilled, qualified medical professionals in the area.

The new outdoor space is just the latest amenity that will help in this endeavor.

Student working on sustainable space

Students working on sustainable outdoor space

“We’re excited to have an outdoor space that our medical student residents can use to relax, unwind, and study while enjoying the natural beauty of the Minnetrista area,” said Mr. Martin.

“This area will be used for events such as s’mores nights, BBQs, dinner and a movie (we plan to purchase a portable screen and projector), and as a space where Ball State faculty and students can use it for Immersive Learning classes if the weather is nice,” Mr. Martin added. “This new outdoor space is an additional amenity that we hope will be enjoyed by our medical students and guests for years to come while they are staying at Maplewood and visiting Muncie.”

The Maplewood and ECAP collaboration for the outdoor space is one endeavor that strives to enhance the positive living experience for residents of Maplewood. The project results from a Provost sustainable immersive learning grant called iMade. The grant is for student engagement in real-world problems—outside the classroom—while working in the community with industry partners to make a difference. ECAP students were able to prototype and assemble customized full-scale design solutions for actual community partners and stakeholders rather than simulations.

Students acquire valuable skills outside the studio by working directly with industry professionals and community partners. Through hands-on experience, they gain a deeper understanding of design principles and construction techniques and develop a respect for time and budget alongside industry experts who prepare them for future careers in the field. Previous partners for iMade projects include MadJax Makerspace, Minnetrista Museum and Gardens, Mounds State Park, Muncie Parks, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

3-D layout of sustainable outdoor space

The 3-D layout of sustainable outdoor space

In design and fabrication, innovation and sustainability go hand-in-hand. The iMade initiative, with its focus on “design through production,” has taken this ethos to heart, enabling students to bring their creative visions to life while making a positive impact on their local communities. The outdoor space at Maplewood exemplifies this philosophy by featuring a deck made with thermally modified wood donated entirely by a regional industry partner, EcoVantage, out of St. Joe, Ind.

“We (ECAP) have a long-standing relationship with the Indiana Hardwood Lumber Association, EcoVantage, and Tru-Building (Muncie), which donated a large portion of their fees to help with this student-driven project,” said Kevin Klinger, associate professor of Architecture. “We couldn’t accomplish this without these industry partners’ generous support and enthusiasm.”

Thermally modified wood is a revolutionary material recently due to its unique properties. Indiana hardwood undergoes a specialized heating process that enhances its durability, stability, and resistance to decay. This sustainable alternative to traditional wood reduces environmental impact and will beautify the space centered around the Maplewood tree for many years without the need for upkeep.

“Hardwood is Indiana’s largest crop—creating more revenue for the state than corn and soybeans combined,” Prof. Klinger said. “It is a valuable resource here. Thermally modified lumber has yet to take off in the states due to the lack of clear written standards on its performance. The potential of this resource for sustainability efforts is amazing, and our students have the opportunity to demonstrate this innovative product, paving the way for the long-term promotion of performance standards for this material,” he continued.

The ECAP students continued their work on the Maplewood project into the Summer—even after Ms. Rheinheimer and Mr. Buening graduated in May.

“After all the planning and preparation, finally getting to build the deck was my favorite part,” said Ms. Rheinheimer. “Seeing our design come to life was thrilling.”

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