Last week, the University of Ottawa unveiled ambitious plans for the future of our campus, and they were astonishing.
However, a comprehensive reimagining of the U of O’s grounds is all too familiar when looking back into the history of this school.
Since the university moved to Sandy Hill in 1856, the campus has been under progressive change. Master plans have been key to the growth of the U of O and are great indicators of the mindset of the university at different times.
The first of the master plans came in 1903, drafted by a famed designer in New York. The plan, if fully executed, would have made the campus like a prototypical American university. The original plan for Tabaret Hall was to mimic the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., along with various large stone buildings and churches. This plan was a truly grandiose vision of the young university’s potential. Some pieces from the original plan can still be seen today on the northern portion of campus where the university retains most of its historical architecture.
The next major campus plan came in 1968 with a vision of green spaces, reflecting pools, and buildings that bore a striking resemblance to Simard. Yet again, the plan was ambitious—but not many elements of the current campus came out of this reimagining.
By 1973, the Jock Turcot University Centre, Montpetit Hall, and the Morisset library were all constructed, none of which appeared in the plan. In the period since, various mismatched buildings have popped up, some more aesthetically pleasing than others.
If there’s any consistency about the campus plans, it’s that no matter how ambitious they are, most of it never happens.
This year’s update proposes the most changes of all. The work that would go into executing the new plan would be stunning.
The demolition and restoration of multiple buildings, the tearing up of roads, and the construction spanning from the top of campus to Lees and Alta Vista, would undoubtedly be a massive undertaking.
But with no definite timeframe, the university continues to hype plans that may not even happen or that most students will never see the result of.
This is not to say the new plan for the campus does not look beautiful and is not an improvement over the current landscape, but it remains to be seen whether there will be any follow-through. The billions of dollars and years of construction needed to complete a project of this size and scale is staggering. This plan can theoretically be performed, but it is now a question of when it will be completed and how long will it take.
We have learned from opening the history books that it is not often these plans get fulfilled to their highest potential—so what makes this one different?