Quads: the heart of the campus

Quads are the heart of the campus, a central gathering space usually anchored in the main buildings of an institution. They also contribute a great deal to the character and identity of a campus and a university.

Usually shaped like rectangles, anything can happen in well-maintained areas, usually located in the center of campus. Students, staff and faculty can meet there to attend an orientation barbecue or a loud concert, participate in an event, attend a Frisbee or just sit and relax between lessons or meetings . And as Canadian universities increasingly recognize Indigenous history and treaties, quads are also undertaking new ceremonies. Initially inspired by ancient monasteries, the university quadrilaterals have evolved into utilitarian spaces. In the precarious medieval world, English universities were protective castles for orderly learning. Spaces were finally adopted in North America in the early post-Enlightenment, then proliferated across the world with the rise of modern science and the advancement of education.

Here are some noteworthy Canadian university quads and a look at what’s going on there.

The Trinity College quad at the University of Toronto. Photo by Dora Dalberto / Unsplash.

University of Toronto

Oxbridge-lust and ghostly legends

The University of Toronto’s St. George’s campus is a former respite in the heart of Canada’s largest metropolis. Built when Canada was a British colony, the university’s massive stone edifices are towering presences that belied the peaceful plazas hidden a few steps away.

The heart of Trinity College Quadrangle, for example, features an elaborate medieval knot on the floor. It may look at least as old as royal portraits from WWII, but it’s only been around for a little over a decade. In the 1950s, the Quadrangle became home to a large Shakespeare summer festival and drama school. The tradition was then revived, and each fall the Trinity College Dramatic Society student club performed works by the immortal bard.

Another quaint quad can be found near University College, an imposing Roman Revival building so monumental it’s been a National Historic Site for half a century, and elsewhere considered a visual encapsulation of the ‘lust of Oxbridge. ” of the University.

U of T University College. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Currently closed for a renovation aimed at reviving the outdoor spaces around the building, the UC Quad is home to one of campus’ oldest legends, built around a love triangle involving a little Corinthian stonemason named Paul Diabolos and a rival hot-blooded Russian, Ivan Reznikoff.

After a jealous Reznikoff sparked a deadly ax fight and was beaten by his counterpart’s dagger, Diabolos hid his rival’s body, which was later found after a fire in 1890. Reznikoff’s bones are believed to have been buried in the northeast corner, while his ghost apparently made sporadic appearances at the college. However, an exploration of history by the Toronto Star casts cold water on the legend, suggesting that it may just be another drama.


Read also: A Brief History of the Clock Towers on Canadian University Campuses


Simon Fraser University Academic Quadrangle. Photo by Kamil Bialous.

Simon Fraser University

Lights, camera, conference!

You may have never visited the Simon Fraser University campus, but you have likely seen its distinctive quadruple top atop Burnaby Mountain, the centerpiece of which is marked by a long reflecting pool cut in half by a walkway. of concrete slabs.

Forever linked to the famous Vancouver architect Arthur Erickson, the Academic Quadrilateral of SFU pays homage to the Acropolis of Athens and the Mesoamerican city of Monte Alban. The quad’s angular characteristics are both so striking and versatile that the area itself has become a hit talent.

When Vancouver became Hollywood North, the Quadrangle was home to famous actors such as Will Smith and Arnold Schwarzenegger. In films like Me, Robot, The Sixth Day and Agent Cody Banks, he’s a symbol of corporate and military might. In the X-Files, it’s FBI headquarters. And in the Battlestar Galactica reboot, it’s the Riverwalk Market in the doomed town of Caprica, just before the nuclear fire falls and starts the story.

According to engineering reports, the Academic Quadrangle could actually be in danger of disaster in real life. In 2017, a report found that the concrete foundations would be particularly vulnerable if a major earthquake shook the campus.

While it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon, the prospect adds a bit of gravity to a hackysack game.

The main quad at the University of Alberta. Photo courtesy of U of A.

University of Alberta

Green and golden and giant pumpkins

A stone’s throw from the south shore of Edmonton’s iconic River Valley, the University of Alberta’s main quad is an emblem of the rambling survival of the Prairies. The quad still looks like the outline of the 1920s master plan for Alberta’s post-secondary utopia. The plan was for a heavenly city accented at its western end by a trio of red Gothic collegiate buildings, built the previous decade as residences.

Even before the quad was built, an election and a change of government scuttled more ambitious plans for the campus, and for a few years, a no-frills approach prevented fire escapes from being built. Later requisitioned by the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II and nearly demolished in the 1970s, the three residences were eventually converted into university buildings.

The U of A is proud of its green and gold. These fall colors are worn by sports teams and fall trees around the time of the first semesters. Yet few students know that the leafy campus adornment exists because of a former landscape architect who spent decades terraforming the campus with exotic and unusual trees capable of surviving harsh winters. If you’re lucky, at the south end of the quad you might see one of the huge Dahurian birch trees losing ornamental bark leaves.

Each fall, the university celebrates its alumni with games, concerts, food trucks and family events. But the other years, the main quad makes the news for its protests. In 2008, a 100-foot crane dropped a 500-pound pumpkin as part of a rally to end hunger.


Read also: University botanical gardens and arboreta are more than pretty places


Duckworth Quadrangle at the University of Manitoba. Photo courtesy of the U of M.

University of Manitoba

Duckworth Quadrangle and hockey robots

If you’re looking to embrace your winter spirit, there are far worse destinations than Winnipeg and far worse places in the heart of Canada than the University of Manitoba’s Duckworth Quadrangle.

The Fort Garry Campus Luminaire is named after Henry Duckworth, a distinguished alumnus who returned to Winnipeg as a physics teacher and chancellor before retiring in 1992. Its distinctive ring shape is surrounded by a lined path. of bricks and trees, giving it “grandeur, openness, and purity,” according to the university’s most recent master plan. If that sounds a bit too perfect, Duckworth Quadrangle topped a Reddit forum a year later, asking for “the best place to have sex on campus.”

For years, the university flooded the quad in the winter to create an impromptu ice rink during the winter months that was used in 2012 to test Jennifer, a hockey robot capable of handling sticks. Other years it was the site of snowshoe races or a charity ice bathing competition.

The Three Nudes statue at McGill University. Photo courtesy of McGill.

mcgill university

Central quadrangle and the three nudes

McGill University’s largest green space is probably the 650-hectare Macdonald campus, a huge piece of land on the island of Montreal. But equally picturesque is the university’s downtown campus, a collection of centuries-old limestone and copper roofs near the slopes of Mount Royal.

McGill’s central quadrilateral took shape a little over a century ago, surrounded by buildings donated by Montreal’s wealthiest benefactors. There’s a perfect gathering place on the slope leading up to a cluster of buildings named after a 19th century sugar baron, Peter Redpath, or a notorious shallow octagonal fountain in a valley looking out towards the iconic Arts Building .

Unveiled in 1931, the Three Bares is the creation of one of the descendants of fortune Cornelius Vanderbilt. It represents three men hoisting a bowl, dressed in just over a few meter cuts. Faith Wallis, a medieval history teacher who has researched sculpture, called the guys “a rather dodgy piece of kitsch.” Nonetheless, it has become one of the most famous works of art at one of the world’s most famous universities, as well as the silent witness to foggy concerts and beer-soaked Frosh weeks.

The Studley quad at Dalhousie University. Photo courtesy of Dalhousie.

Dalhousie University

Studley Quad and an evolving future

Studley Quad looks a bit like a boastful freshman, but its history goes way back. The main campus of Dalhousie University in Halifax was named after the Studley Priory, a former Benedictine convent in Oxfordshire owned by Alexander Croke. The Admiralty Deputy Judge named his Nova Scotia property in his honor, before eventually returning to his hometown in England. After his death, the property changed hands several times before it was purchased by the university in 1911.

A century later, the Studley Quad is now the university’s public gateway, spanning the entire campus and uniting century-old buildings with more recent additions. When Dalhousie celebrated its bicentennial in 2018, it redeveloped part of Studley Quad, adding flexible seating and a new ceremonial circle for cultural activities.

It’s a mix of new and old, hosting events Mr. Croke probably never could have imagined: bike rodeos and scavenger hunts, the Halifax Color Festival and an annual event called Mawio’mi that recognizes and celebrates the Mi’kmaq people.

Today, the Studley Quad is a place where students can shape their lives. In the spring of 2021, students camped in the quad near the Henry Hicks Academic Building to protest what they see as a threat to their future: back-to-back tuition hikes.