The planning, design concept, design coordination, site development and landscaping for the original part of the campus were all under the control of Erickson/Massey. The complex was conceived as one building, with future growth occurring at the periphery. Tall buildings would have been out of scal…
The planning, design concept, design coordination, site development and landscaping for the original part of the campus were all under the control of Erickson/Massey. The complex was conceived as one building, with future growth occurring at the periphery. Tall buildings would have been out of scale with the massive mountaintop ridge, so a series of horizontal terraced structures were designed that hugged the ridge and dissolve into the landscape. Following the linear peak of the mountain, the scheme organized various parts of the campus along an east/west line. The concept of a central academic quadrangle was conceived within the tradition of Oxford and Cambridge, and to enhance the sense of contemplative quiet, it was designed as a perfect square raised on massive pilotis, allowing stunning views through a landscaped courtyard. The connecting link was a gigantic space frame-developed in conjunction with Jeffrey Lindsay, a one-time associate of Buckminster Fuller-that provided shelter and a gathering-place for the students. Other architects who had placed among the top five in the competition were retained to design the individual components of the original plan: the Academic Quadrangle by Zoltan S. Kiss; the Theatre, Gymnasium & Swimming Pool by Duncan McNab & Associates; the Science Complex by Rhone & Iredale; and the Library by Robert F. Harrison.
Following the end of the Second World War, there was unprecedented growth throughout the Lower Mainland. Many returning veterans had settled on the coast, and the loosening of wartime restrictions led to the creation of many new suburban developments throughout the region. The growing population strained existing facilities, and there was a recognition that new educational facilities had to be constructed to meet these growing demands. For many years, the only university in the province was the University of British Columbia. In the 1960s, new universities were planned for both Victoria and Burnaby to serve the wave of baby boomers just then going through high school. The dramatic site chosen for the Burnaby university was the top of Burnaby Mountain, with expansive views over mountain ranges and water. An architectural competition was held for a campus of 7,000 students that could eventually be expanded to 18,000.
Of the many submissions, the judges reached unanimity on the winner, an outstanding scheme submitted by the firm of Erickson/Massey. The judges went even further, and recommended that every effort be made to ensure that the winning design be built as submitted. The new Chancellor, Gordon Shrum, agreed. The realization of this scheme won extensive recognition for the work of Arthur Erickson and Geoffrey Massey, and launched Erickson’s international career. In Erickson’s words: "Unlike any previous university, Simon Fraser is a direct translation into architecture of the expanding fields of knowledge that defy traditional boundaries, of the vital role of the university as both challenger and conservor of human culture, and of the university community as one in constant intellectual, spiritual and social interchange."
The new school opened for classes in September 1965, nicknamed the “instant university,” and quickly gained a radical reputation. The startling futuristic architecture and open layout suited the explosive nature of the mid-1960s, when political and social traditions of all types were being questioned and student protests were common. Many of SFU’s programs were considered experimental, even controversial, and unrest and conflict on the campus continued for a number of years.
Since this auspicious beginning 40 years ago, SFU has grown to house 25,000 students on three campuses. The core of the original campus, recognized world-wide as a profound work of architecture, remains essentially intact today.