Encountering construction on campus has become a part of the daily routine for pretty much all students trying to make their way through UBC. However, a recent proposal for a $365,000 art installation at University Plaza, the area right outside of The Nest, really calls into question the priorities of the university.
A massive 22 by 100-metre piece by artist Esther Shalev-Gerz, known as “The Shadow” is potentially going to be installed on the surface of the plaza. Many of the existing cement bricks lining the ground will be selectively removed and replaced with 24,000 bricks in a darker shade to resemble the shape of a large Douglas Fir tree. The removed bricks will be used elsewhere on campus.
The biggest issue with this installation is that “the totality of the tree can only be grasped from a distance,” and “The Shadow requires a view from higher ground to be complete.” People walking through the plaza would not even be able to distinguish what is on the ground, as it would just look as though some of the bricks had been stained. The only place from which people could see the tree properly would be from the upper floor and rooftops of the Alumni Centre and the Nest, both areas which see little foot traffic.
As the project still hasn’t been approved, an open house was held on October 19 at the Alumni Centre, however online feedback and comments are still being accepted by Campus and Community Planning until October 26.
If it is approved, installation would commence in mid-November and finish in mid-January, that is if everything goes according to schedule. During construction of The Shadow, one of the busiest areas of campus would be fenced off. Given all the construction that is going on right now, especially around the bus loop and Nest area, adding more detours would just create another headache for students and staff trying to get around.
Yes, art installations around campus are nice. But when those art installations cost $365,000, disrupt an important area of campus for a long time and aren’t even comprehensible unless you’re viewing it from Google Earth, we really start to question who thought this was a good idea.
Wouldn’t it be better if UBC invested in an art installation that was made through the participation and involvement of students, creating a piece that actually has significance and connections to our community? In all honesty, instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on paving stones which symbolize a tree, couldn’t we just plant a few more trees around campus?
Alirod Ameri is a first-year student studying science.