University of Construction

It’s no secret that UBC has a lot of construction going on. When one building opens its doors for the first time, it’s like another building has just been knocked down.

The Nest didn’t exist when I was in first year; most of the events that take place in this spacious building, such as Clubs Days, used to be located in the smaller, kind of creepier-looking SUB. I used to be able to traverse this small valley located between Irving and Koerner, but I believe they’re constructing a museum there now. Science Advising has moved due to renovations. The old Aquatic Centre is a pile of rubble, while the new Aquatic Centre looks sleek AF. Obviously the bus-loop has been re-located. Sometimes when I’m not thinking too much about where I’m going, I head to where the bus-loop used to be instead of veering off to the right where I should be going.

I have a pen pal in Alberta who came to Vancouver in my second year to visit some relatives, and so we seized the opportunity to meet up. She had graduated from UBC decades back, and when I told her that I would meet her at the SUB’s Starbucks, we had a bit of trouble finding each other because the SUB apparently hadn’t been around when she had been a student. “The campus is very different,” she said to me as we walked from the Bookstore (she thought I was referring to the Starbucks there) to the Nest.

Last Saturday I was working my regular shift at the hospital, and I met a man who used to tend to the UBC Botanical Garden. The Botanical Garden had to be moved during his career here, imagine that. He also knew of a time before the Kenny Building, when there was Douglas T. Kenny, in the flesh, who was serving as UBC’s seventh president.

And just today I was talking to a UBC alumnus who told me how Irving used to be spectacularly spooky before all the renovations happened. To me that was mind-blogging. It never once occurred to me (even though logically I know it should) that Irving once did not exist, and when Irving did come into being, it still could not have looked exactly as I see it now.

The environment at UBC is always changing, and these changes are in no way small. We have these incredibly modern buildings resting side by side with the fantastically old ones, and we navigate through the old and the new, the old and the new, the old and the new every day. You know what I’m talking about. Look to your left, and you see one of those concrete blocks where the windows are tiny and there’s ivy creeping up the side like a cobweb, and look to your right and there’s this architecturally creative structure whose walls seem to all be crafted out of colourful glass.

Before we realize it, the old that we’ve become so familiar with transitions into the new. Soon what we’ve thought of as new becomes old to others. I mused to one of my friends during a mutual break we had before classes, “I wonder what it will be like when we return to UBC as alumni? Will we even recognize the place?” She shook her head without much contemplation, because the obvious answer is no. There will probably come a period when I will leave UBC and not look back at it for a long time, not observe in person all of the changes that are occurring, and maybe some years down the road I will suddenly remember again, and I will return back and be amazed at how just those few years apart has rendered a totally new landscape.

UBC re-invents itself all the time (in its appearance, at least). It’s easy to complain about how you have to go a different, longer route just to get to class, or how you miss such and such about the SUB, and heck, I do it all the time. I live for the nostalgia, people! But it’s interesting, too, to think that you’re witnessing the formation of this infrastructure that will affect so many other students and faculty in the future for a huge chunk of their lives. You’re in this moment in which some things are on the verge of becoming and no longer existing, this delicate liminal space, and you will never get it back. Neat, huh?