When UBC was first founded in 1908, the Minister of Education at the time envisioned “a small city which is capable of being made one of the most interesting and beautiful in the world.” More than a century later, this idea of a physically, culturally and intellectually cohesive University continues to be a guiding theme.
UBC Vancouver is the product of a long and varied design, planning and construction history. The University has undergone many changes, expanding numerous times to accommodate a growing, diverse campus community. With each incarnation, UBC assumes new qualities and aesthetics that refine its physical and cultural landscape.
At the same time, this kind of evolution challenges the physical, cultural and intellectual cohesion of UBC. Today, while the campus has become interesting and beautiful, it lacks a strong centre and unifying presence. It is a campus of precincts and neighbourhoods whose inhabitants sometimes never meet.
If there’s one constant through UBC’s physical development history, then it is the repeated use of the natural world as a unifying theme. Recent plans have revived interest in the stunning backdrop of mountains and oceans that inspired planners more than a century earlier. Buildings and landscapes are designed around the natural beauty of the University. The boundaries that formerly defined the academic zones on campus have become more porous as a result of the recent emphasis on interdisciplinary work.
As UBC moves toward its future, it is still important to explore the history of its development, to identify the themes and contexts that shape its physical development, as well as the experiences of those who study, work, live or visit our campus.
For more information, refer to section 7.2 of Part 2 in the Vancouver Campus Plan.