Hot Takes: Honest thoughts on UBC’s best (worst) art around campus

Art is very important, and you can see why. Isabella Falsetti

As my English professor said to us on our first day of class this term, UBC isn’t fondly called ‘Ugly Buildings Campus’ for no reason. From the Buchanan Tower to the hideous Brutalist-era tribute that is the Walter Gage residence, UBC’s architectural imagination does not shy away from scaring its audiences.

So when it comes to artwork, all good (and bad) things come in abundance on this campus. I’ll share my thoughts on just a few of them.

The twisted wooden structure behind the fountain

Curving towards the sky, like a sick ski ramp or something,
Curving towards the sky, like a sick ski ramp or something, Isabella Falsetti

Okay, this one I actually like. Aside from the intricate woodwork that gives the structure some really beautiful textures, this spot is home base for UBC’s stoner community as well. Talk about a win-win.

On a sunny day you can also see dogs sniffing around the structure for good places to sneak a pee in, which makes for a delightful stop along Main Mall.

It also helps if you’re walking to class and need to make a detour to get a good back scratch in, because those panels don’t play. I assume. So I’ve heard.

Ponderosa’s Cumbria structure

From a certain angle, it looks like the Titanic.
From a certain angle, it looks like the Titanic. Isabella Falsetti

This startlingly yellow configuration (of scrap metal? Mercante box remains?) reminds the viewer first of a rather post-modern take on a deconstructed banana. Upon further inspection of the plaque, however, it’s quickly revealed that it is, in fact, an artist’s take on transportation. Yes, read that again.

Well, the only utilitarian purpose I see attached to Cumbria’s theme is the multitude of opportunities it provides for UBC’s budding sk8r boys to practice their latest tricks. With such sharp angles and the Mercante slope for company, Cumbria could easily become UBC’s unique tribute to Vancouver’s skater community.

But alas, until then, us Ponderosa residents must somehow endure the eyesore and work every day to decipher its ambiguous commentary on “transportation.”

The Beaty whale

Does the whale have a name? If not, what do we call it?
Does the whale have a name? If not, what do we call it? Isabella Falsetti

Art, history, whatever it is, this whale’s got it. As if a campus of 65,000 students wasn’t enough to make you feel small enough, our fossilic friend is an eternal testament to the magnitude of the universe and your unbelievable smallness. Honestly, this whale sometimes makes me feel like I’m a lost first year all over again.

All said and done, this is probably one of the most wonderful things Main Mall has to offer (aside from aspiring Olympic cyclists on Mondays). It’s a gentle reminder on your walk to class that you can almost always find something extraordinary in the mundane.

The wooden chalet by the fountain

A masterfully-framed photo of the structure in question.
A masterfully-framed photo of the structure in question. Isabella Falsetti

As a member of UBC’s stoner community, I can verify that this is a fan-favourite location for smoking on campus (new pitch idea?). There’s just something so cosy about it that it makes the cold and crowds on university boulevard worth it.

I especially love the view of the Nest and the lights at night when you’re debating over who’s going to get their hands cold to relight the joint. I mean, these are the kind of nights we’re going to remember long after we get our $20,000 piece of paper from Santa Ono.