British Columbia

Often-filmed SFU plaza undergoing major renovations

The campus was designed by Arthur Erickson in the 1960s and has since appeared in several movies, including Agent Cody Banks, Catwoman, and Underworld: Awakening.

Campus built in the 1960s, recently started a three-year renovation project

George Venini, who is overseeing the project, stands in front of the ongoing construction at SFU. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

The Burnaby Mountain campus at Simon Fraser University, famous for its stark grey architecture, hasn't changed much in the past half century.

It was designed by Arthur Erickson in the 1960s, and the campus's public plaza has appeared in several movies, including Agent Cody Banks, CatwomanThe X-Files, The Underworld: Awakening and The 6th Day

The university recently started a three-year renovation project to repair the decades of wear and tear on the public plaza, the first major renovation of the space since the campus was built.

"All of the outdoor public spaces will be completely refinished," said SFU's George Venini, who is overseeing the project.

A conceptual design by PUBLIC Architecture + Communication of the renovations to the Academic Quadrangle, which will honour Arthur Erickson's design, but modernize the area. (Simon Fraser University )

New roof, no leaks

The Academic Quadrangle, at the centre of the campus, also acts as the rooftop to many of the classrooms and other spaces below and, as the material deteriorates over time, leaks have become a significant problem.

"Over the years, we've had to deal with leaks into the classrooms on an almost emergency basis where we take up small parts of the plaza and repair where we can find a leak," Venini told CBC's Margaret Gallagher.

The entire plaza will be stripped away and a new roof will be put down, made of more durable material and with better drainage. New furniture and look-out points will also be added.

A conceptual design by PUBLIC Architecture + Communication of the Academic Quadrangle. (Simon Fraser University )

"This is very significant bit of work," Venini said. "It's going to be about $40 million or more for the plaza renewal alone."

He said the design team is being careful to honour the previous architecture by Erickson.   

"We will work with the colours and patterns that are here, but we will be updating the technology of the plazas," Venini said.

An "enlightened ascension" will be the most prominent feature, he said. 

The lowest point of the plaza will use darker coloured materials and lighten as they rise through the convocation mall and into the Academic Quadrangle.

"This is a very interesting concept that is driving our plaza design," Venini said. "We think that's quite in keeping with what Arthur Erickson had in mind for this mountaintop campus."

With files from Margaret Gallagher and The Early Edition