UBC Reports
November 28, 1996

Proposed Liu Centre elicits praise, criticism

About 80 faculty and staff attended a four-hour Open House on Nov. 19 to discuss the proposed Liu Centre for International Studies and University Centre for faculty and staff.

A forum session during the Open House, attended by about 45 faculty and staff, elicited both praise for the concept of an international studies centre and criticism of the site chosen for it.

The Liu Centre, funded in part by a gift from the Liu Foundation, will be a comprehensive centre of teaching and research, drawing on UBC's strength in international studies and bringing together faculty, distinguished visitors, and students from around the world to examine complex issues.

The project calls for a major academic initiative on the site of the former Faculty Club to increase space at the north end of campus. It includes a University Centre for faculty and staff, honouring the spirit of the original Koerner family gift of the building to UBC. UBC has consulted extensively with the Koerner family about the use of the site, which will also include a residence/hotel facility for international studies program registrants, conference-goers, and visitors.

The Institute of International Relations, Centre for Human Settlements, South-North Studies Program and the Sustainable Development Research Institute will be housed in the Liu Centre.

Among questions raised by faculty about the University Centre --which comprises the meeting, assembly and food services component of the project--were concerns about exclusivity of use, the availability of dining facilities, the heritage value of the former Faculty Club building, and the height of the proposed residence/hotel facility. Some faculty called for a delay on any decision affecting the former Faculty Club building.

Comments arising during the Open House ranged from discussion about environmental impact, view corridors, parking capacity at the site, and traffic, to philosophical debate, primarily with matters relating to the heritage value of the former Faculty Club building. The size and type of facilities envisioned for the University Centre, and the prospect of sharing space with other users, met with disapproval by some faculty.

Architect Peter Wreglesworth of Architectura said an analysis of the physical aspects of the former Faculty Club building revealed many functional and technical problems, including structure and seismic upgrade issues, accessibility issues, and low floor-to-underside of structure heights which create lower than desirable ceiling heights. These difficulties significantly compromise the development of a high-level conference facility that can compete in the international arena, he said. One option may be to replace the existing building in order to deal with some of the programmatic, technical and structural issues.

The Open House, to which all UBC faculty and staff were invited, was the fifth component of ongoing campus consultation on the project, which began with four focus groups of faculty and staff in August and September.

The proposal has been widely discussed, initially through a letter to campus in May, a UBC Reports story in June and media material released in June. It has also been discussed regularly at the President's Property and Planning Advisory Committee.

Comments made at the Open House and those submitted in writing on the Liu Centre/University Centre proposal will be sent to the Board of Governors for its Dec. 12 meeting.

If you would like to view the models and drawings for the proposed project please call Jim Carruthers,Campus Planning and Development, at 822-8228 to set up an appointment between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

If you would like to comment on the project, please forward your remarks in writing, before Dec. 5, to Jim Carruthers by fax at 822-6119 or by e-mail to carruthers@cpd.ubc.ca. Or, you may write to Dr. Olav Slaymaker, Chair, Steering Committee for the Liu Centre, by e-mail to olav@geog.ubc.ca.