zone, replacing the roads and curbs and asphalt with pavers and broad
sidewalk promenades. It was a massive project, causing plenty of headaches
for students and faculty alike during the various phases of construction.
And, while Mr. Gregory notes that “old habits die hard,” the school has
been successful in restricting the size of service vehicles and the hours
when they can drop off their goods, and drivers have been amenable to
parking a little further away.
A key element of the pedestrianization was an attempt to blur the
boundary between indoor and outdoor space (something helped by Vancouver’s mild climate) and to bring more of the university’s life outdoors.
To this end, furniture such as lounge chairs equipped with power outlets
were installed to encourage students to work outside, as were big harvest
tables for group work or socializing.
This is the first year that all signs of the old mall are completely gone,
says Mr. Gregory. The final result has been remarkable. “What was once a
corridor to get people from point A to point B is suddenly a place to have
an outdoor class, or eat lunch, or play some casual Frisbee, or study, or
read, or whatever – it’s been embraced,” he says.
Kai Okazaki, a fourth-year UBC science and management student,
agrees. “For sure, this gives people the opportunity to utilize the space. It
gives people options to have meetings or conversations or work on group
projects. In a subtle way, the infrastructure just creates a better learning
Mr. Gregory maintains that all the work towards a “big vision” was
definitely worth it. “I walk around the campus and see people taking pic-
tures all the time, and that wasn’t the case in the past. These improvements
go beyond simply making things more beautiful,” he adds. “They’re about
animating and invigorating and bringing life to the campus. They’re about
creating a sense of pride and a strong sense of place.”
An attractive, pedestrian-friendly campus can also serve as a powerful
recruitment tool, a place that can make a great first impression on students.
University of Windsor President Alan Wildeman maintains that the creation
of these pedestrian zones will help foster an even better environment for
learning. He likens the new design to an open-concept workplace, where
colleagues can come together and share ideas. “The best way to increase
productivity in an organization is to simply take the doors off,” he says.
“We’re doing that in our own way by getting rid of the asphalt streets.”
While any campus that exchanges parking lots for parks can expect
complaints and push-back from drivers (who now have to park farther
away and walk greater distances), the big picture is much broader than
such petty concerns, says Dr. Wildeman. A university “is about knowledge
and discovery and innovation. It’s about creative thinking and people con-
necting,” he says. “It’s not about ‘where are the cars going to park?’”
One of the best examples of what can happen when a school makes a
big move toward pedestrianization can be found at the University of Brit-
ish Columbia. There, the heart and soul of the campus lives in its Main
Mall, which runs along a natural ridgeline on the Point Grey Peninsula.
Lined with big, old trees – some of them planted by graduating classes in
a tradition honoured since 1919 – the area offers stunning views out to the
coastal mountains and Howe Sound. But, says campus landscape architect
Dean Gregory, this beautiful environment was often sullied by the sight of
big service trucks and other vehicles driving around and unloading right
in the middle of it.
So, starting five years ago, UBC made the Main Mall into a pedestrian