Students propose to enliven campus core

by Sean Kelly

Staff writer

The area of University Boulevard between Wesbrook Mall and East Mall is the subject of intense scrutiny by Landscape Architecture and Architecture students.

The area, part of the academic core, includes the War Memorial Gymnasium, General Services Administration Building and the Friedman building, and is identified as having the potential for increased commercial and transit use in the Official Community Plan (OCP) for UBC, approved earlier this year by UBC's Board of Governors and the Greater Vancouver Regional District.

The planning and design exercise is led by Landscape Architecture Assoc. Prof. Patrick Condon, Architecture Assoc. Prof. Ronald Walkey, and Freda Pagani of Land and Building Services. Students from both departments formed seven teams of four to five students each to come up with development plans and initial models for the area.

"This exercise is intended to help people visualize ways the campus can change," says Condon.

He says that one of the students' key concerns is sustainability, broadly defined as providing for the needs of the present without compromising the future.

Mike Salmon, a second-year Architecture student says his group would make the area more sustainable by making it more dense and active 24 hours a day.

"Architecture and Landscape Architecture students often work late into the night, so we know how campus shuts down at about 6 p.m. for most people," he says.

His group's plan includes light industry and research space, retail, student and market housing, and even a nightclub in areas now occupied by green space.

Walkey is impressed by the plan, pointing out that many of the models produced by the other student teams show dense in-fill structures.

"The existing green space is mostly grass, and doesn't give anything back to the environment," he says. "We now have an isolated community of isolated buildings. It seems counter-intuitive, but increased density for the area is actually more sustainable, and more likely to create a vibrant community."

Condon agrees, noting that although the campus seems built up, only 10 per cent of the developed area is covered by buildings.

"Higher density makes more efficient use of existing infrastructure and land resources, and is easier to service by transit. It allows residents to be less car dependent since they live within a five-minute walk of all their basic needs," he says.

Watching the progress of the studio closely is Janet Land, co-ordinator of the Greening the Campus Program which operates out of the Sustainable Development Research Institute. The aim of the program is to bring together students, faculty and staff with diverse skills and knowledge to undertake projects which promote ecological sustainability on campus.

Land is encouraging students and faculty from other disciplines to undertake projects that complement the work of the architecture students.

"There are all kinds of possibilities," she says. "Someone could examine transportation issues, or what mix of residential and commercial development would best meet the needs of the community."

The public will have a chance to see the results of the students' work when the finished models go on display in the Student Union Building Art Gallery Dec. 1-12.