Why, when compared to its predecessors, is this space just about right?
This is the Atrium at Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus – a part of the award-winning, mixed-use complex designed by Bing Thom. The campus is an anchor for Surrey Central City, which with a refurbished shopping centre and office tower has become the signature development for the regional town centre once known as Whalley.
It is, in its way, as significant as the opening of the Burnaby campus in 1965, and an interesting c0mparison with SFU Vancouver – the complex of buildings that now make up the downtown campus. The main facility, SFU Harbour Centre, is also in a mixed-use complex with a shopping centre and office tower, but lacks the superb gathering spaces and architectural flare that characterizes its companion at the other end of the Expo line.
In the current issue of AQ, the alumni magazine of the university, I describe the origins of SFU’s three campuses and compare the results:
Unlike the parsimonious spaces for impromptu gatherings of students in Vancouver, SFU Surrey was designed with a multitude of study rooms and lounges, with dozens of electrical outlets and even coffee bars with movable chairs and small tables in an atrium that is one of the best public spaces anywhere in the Lower Mainland.
And like SFU Burnaby, the Surrey campus has a great flight of stairs on which one feels like an actor in some larger play, separating it from the rest of complex without requiring physical separation. The line between town and gown, while evident, is easily crossed.
And though part of a larger complex, SFU Surrey provides an anchor not just for this development, not just within these few blocks in the Whalley city centre, but with the neighbouring communities, including Newton, which have evolved to reflect the changing patterns of migration.
This is the third campus, reacting to two visions of how and where a university should be built, that, in Goldilocks-style, gets it just about right.