University’s legacy gift to community, in honour of Canada 150, to be unveiled this Sunday
University architect provides an insider’s look at how Evergreen Pond and the Circle came to be.
By BEN LOUIE
In participating in the 24-member Sesquicentennial Committee over the past year, six of us were invited to develop a legacy project to complement a year of campus activities celebrating Canada 150. This Sunday, Sept. 24, the university will unveil it on South Campus.
The committee’s first job was to develop celebratory principles. It came up with 12 of them, including authentically U of A principles—daring and surprising, and focused on the public good. This is in addition to the four articulated Government of Canada's themes of diversity and inclusion, reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, youth and environment.
Plenty of ideas
The invitation came with a list of suggestions, such as 150 trees with 150 stories, a sense of permanence and more. It also came with another stark reality: there would be no budget for activities or the legacy project. No matter. In true team spirit, members of the legacy committee rolled up their sleeves and contributed with energy in crafting a legacy gift befitting our university community.
University celebrates Canada 150
To officially open Evergreen Pond and Circle, the U of A will be hosting an all-ages event on Sunday, Sept. 24 at the university's South Campus, located at the intersection of 63 Avenue and 118 Street.
For more information about the activities planned and where to park, click here.
The idea proposed and adopted by the Sesquicentennial Committee was to create a campus commons, in the vein of a city central park or a college quad, in the middle of an academic campus on South Campus.
When fully developed, this place-making legacy project will be a focal point in the public realm, echoing the agrarian notion of a fallow, intentionally leaving land uncultivated for a duration to let it recover its fertility, a collegiate notion of sabbatical, setting aside time for field research and scholarship, and most of all, a notion of a liberal education, pursuing the search for knowledge and understanding in juxtaposition with an engaging life of practical employment.
Thanks to one of our archivist-minded colleagues, the development of the design was inspired by worthy words of prominent people who have or had a connection to the university, such as alumnus Wilton Littlechild, who recently served as a commission with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, alumnus and writer W.O. Mitchell and former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, an honourary degree recipient.
The concept design is an arena stage, a simple circular form, gently laid onto a raised plateau adjacent to a carefully moulded utility stormwater management pond.
The water feature is, of course, a practical engineering solution to water retention. But it also serves as a sustainability step towards caring for our environment and demonstrating our commitment to environmental responsibility.
The stage is a classical form of open invitation to engage and participate, whether it be a gathering, a ceremony, an oratory, a performance or a reflection. The ingredients of the design are the natural elements of earth, fire, water, wood, stone and air. When combined and articulated, they give form to a dance between nature and human activity, conveying an authenticity of place, an authentic moment of time, an authenticity of purpose and a sense of timelessness through its ability to evolve over time.
The design provided an opportunity for naming also. Evergreen Pond is a direct reference to the name of U of A's yearbook Evergreen and Gold. The word evergreen also conjures up images of renewal and regeneration that embrace the themes of environmental stewardship and youth. Pond suggests a place for repose. The Circle, name for the arena stage, is non-prescriptive in its simplicity in nomenclature and its open-endedness for interpretation and use, embracing the other two sesquicentennial celebration themes of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples as well as diversity and inclusion.
What the future holds
It was a rewarding experience for members of the committee to be able to interest and assemble a village of engaged and committed participants through all aspects of the project’s implementation as well as program planning for the upcoming celebratory event.
One could imagine and dream about the countless stories and memories of those who would come to experience this stage and the naturalized pond in the days ahead.
Will this Sesquicentennial legacy project be a welcomed venue or perhaps an invitation to contemplate and rebuild relationships under an ever-changing but comforting prairie sky? That is the committee’s hope. Time will tell.