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University Building Program

by E.K. Cumming

Since the founding of the University in 1906 there have been many changes in the plans for its buildings and campus. Some of you will no doubt remember the architectural sketches and plans drawn up during the period 1911-1915. It was during these years that the first buildings appeared on the campus. The residences were first, followed by the opening of the Arts Building in October, 1915. Shortly after the conclusion of the First World War the Engineering Laboratories were completed and in 1921 the Medical Building was opened to complete the nucleus of our campus.

A period of arrested growth followed this initial expansion, mainly due to the fact that these buildings provided adequate space. Then upon the outbreak of the second world conflict increased registration, accompanied by a need for furnishing the service schools with classrooms and residential space, made building expansion imperative. This expansion was necessarily of a temporary nature owing to wartime shortages of men and materials. When the residences were turned over to the R.C.A.F. in 1941 the Cafeteria and Infirmary were built to provide services thereby given up. Besides this, the Air Force constructed a Drill Hall and Canteen for their own use. At present these buildings are being used at peak capacity every hour of every day, the Drill Hall as a gymnasium and the Canteen as a Drafting Building. In addition to these buildings it was found necessary to construct another temporary structure, just west of the Power Plant, to house the print shop and the machine shop, which were moved from the Arts Building and South Laboratory to make room for expanded laboratories.

Upon cessation of hostilities in 1945 there came another very abrupt need for additional accommodation. The University was faced with a registration of 4,000 students, well over double that of any preceding year. Time was too short to attempt the construction of enough permanent buildings to meet this need, to say nothing of the difficulties to be overcome in obtaining the necessary labor and materials.

However, for every problem there is a solution. At every army and air force station there were many buildings lying idle, their wartime purpose fulfilled. The prefabricated type of building to be found at these stations was the answer to our need for materials. These were dismantled and brought to the campus and erected to form the olive green colony which some of you will have noticed to the west of the North Laboratory. Four Cowin type (semi-circular sheet metal) huts are serving as classrooms and four Texas type (prefabricated wood construction) huts are providing much needed classroom, laboratory and office space for various departments. Also to the south of the Medical Building a fifth hut has been constructed which is now being used to accommodate part of the Provincial Laboratory of Public Health. The last of these which is not yet complete will house offices, classrooms and laboratories as well as a radio studio.

The critical housing situation in the city presented another problem, especially in the case of new staff members coming from other parts of this country and from abroad. To provide living accommodation for these people it was felt necessary to build three apartment houses, each containing four suites, situated along 87th Avenue and 112th Street. Although delays caused through material shortages have been disappointing to all concerned, it is hoped that these will be ready for occupancy in the very near future.

This was not all. Something had to be done to meet the needs of the newly created Department of Chemical Engineering and the greatly expanded Schools of Dentistry and Pharmacy to say nothing of more laboratory facilities for Chemistry. To meet this need work was begun last Spring on east and west wing additions to the Medical Building. This work has been proceeding slowly throughout the past year and it is hoped that the west wing will be completed by this Fall.

But what of the future? First, let us look at the immediate future, the summer of 1947. Plans call for a new Library and a road paving program. The new Library, which will be started early this Spring, will be a four-storied building, 152 feet by 143 feet, and will be situated directly east of the Medical Building with the main entrance facing the forecourt to the east of the Arts Building. The architectural style of this building will be similar to that of the Arts Building. Accommodation in this library will be sufficient for 800 readers at any one time. Adequate stack space and also a number of innovations are planned, among which are a microfilm and photography study room and a rare manuscripts and map room.

Next year should see work begun on a Students' Union Building for which plans are now being prepared. This structure will house a gymnasium, swimming pool, auditorium, offices and club rooms and will be located directly south and across the street from Pembina.

The years to come should bring many more permanent additions to the campus. Plans call for a Chemical Engineering Building west of the Medical Building, to be followed by an Administration Building to the south of the Arts Building and a Biological Science Building to be built directly north of the North Laboratory. By about 1953 it is planned that a main Engineering Building will be erected, thus completing the program for the next six years.

Definite plans for the period beyond this have not as yet been made but now in mind are a Museum, a Convocation Hall, a Fine Arts Wing, another Engineering Building, a Dining Hall and Cafeteria, an addition to the Library and additional Students' Residences. These have all received a place on the plan. Not yet decided upon, but being thought of, are buildings for the Research Council of Alberta and for the Provincial Laboratories.

In such a short article it has not been possible to give a complete account of the building programme but the general picture has been given. If we are to be prepared for the senior years of 2,000 students, who are now in first year, we must get on with the construction of these permanent buildings as quickly as funds, men, and materials can be made available.

Published April 1947.

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