UBC NOW — 2018

November 5, 2018

If These Walls Could Talk: A Site for Art, Architecture and Defence

By Bonnie Sun, Senior Marketing and Communications Manager, Museum of Anthropology

Bill Reid’s The Raven and the First Men (1980; MOA Collection: Nb1.481) installed where a MK7 gun was once positioned during World War II. Photo by Goh Iromoto.

Bill Reid’s The Raven and the First Men (1980; MOA Collection: Nb1.481) installed where a MK7 gun was once positioned during the Second World War. Photo by Goh Iromoto.

For over 40 years, the Museum of Anthropology has been located on the northwest corner of the UBC campus — perched on the cliffs of Point Grey, looking out into the Strait of Georgia. Thousands of UBC students and staff, locals and tourists visit MOA each year, and for most of us, it’s hard to imagine the site without the museum. Yet the foundation of MOA’s architecture was laid long before it was built in the mid-1970s, when this point was an important site for defence. Though that time has passed, a closer look at the museum and the surrounding grounds still reveals signs of this history.

The Musqueam people, whose unceded lands these remain, used this site for millennia as a lookout point. If enemies were spotted in the water, runners would be sent to alert other tribal members. With the advent of the First World War in 1914, the site — usurped in 1860 by the British as an admiralty reserve — was designated by the Canadian government as a “fortress area,” and two five-inch guns were installed. When the war ended in 1918, this improvised battery was dismantled.

Two decades later, war was declared against Nazi Germany. A more extensive army facility was built here to defend BC’s coastline from Japanese naval attack. Positioned in a 100-metre line along the hillside, three circular gun emplacements, with underground magazines and ammunition hoists, were built with reinforced concrete. MK7 guns were placed on top of the emplacements, and a subterranean tunnel system connected each of them.

Interior view of the unground magazine and ammunition hoist located below each gun emplacement. Photo by Paul Joseph.

Interior view of the underground magazine and ammunition hoist located below each gun emplacement. Photo by Paul Joseph.

Exploring the tunnel system below the museum. Photo by Paul Joseph.

Exploring the tunnel system below the museum. Photo by Paul Joseph.

After the war, the facility was decommissioned. The point of land was not returned to the Musqueam but instead was taken over by the university and largely abandoned, save for a few trespassing students who hosted parties in the deserted tunnels.

It’s in this state that the site was designated for a further transformation. The world-renowned Canadian architect Arthur Erickson was selected in 1972 to design the new museum. According to architect Nick Milkovich, who worked for Erickson as a young graduate, “The way Arthur worked on all his projects was to walk in with an empty mind. No preconceptions. Just, ‘what’s there, what’s needed, and how do we address it?’ What was there was a sloping site and these three gun emplacements. So, let’s use them, play with them, see what we can do with them.”

Erickson built the museum on top of the emplacements and tunnels, incorporating them into the architecture. Today, visitors to the museum can see hints of the burster pads — the concrete domes built as protective outer layers around the emplacements — protruding at the bottom of the rounded walls inside MOA’s Great Hall. “We built a wall on top of the curvature of the burster pads. It was a little bit of a nod to the history, and it was functional. It was a way of showing what was once there,” explains Milkovich.

Isometric plan of MOA, circa 1976, showing the three circular gun emplacements - one on each side of the museum and one within it. Photo courtesy of Hopping, Kovach, Grinnell Design Consultants, Vancouver.

Isometric plan of MOA, circa 1976, showing the three circular gun emplacements — one on each side of the museum and one within it. Photo courtesy of Hopping, Kovach, Grinnell Design Consultants, Vancouver.

Erickson’s decision, however, may have taken a different form if it wasn’t for the research and passion of UBC professor emeritus of history, Peter Moogk, who helped to preserve the site’s historical significance. On learning that Erickson’s initial plan for the gun emplacements was to incorporate them as structural features in an Asian garden, Moogk felt it would be a disrespectful legacy for these relics of war. He launched a public relations campaign, writing letters to local papers to bring attention from a wider audience who might be sympathetic to preserving the gun emplacements as reminders of their role in military history.

There was also the matter of practicality. Whatever Erickson’s initial intentions, it was simply too difficult and costly to remove the 15-metres-thick reinforced concrete. Erickson’s creativity and resourcefulness brought an elegant solution.

Bill Reid’s The Raven and the First Men is lowered through the skylight for installation on what was once gun emplacement number two. MOA Archives: William McLennan fonds, a043191. Photographer unknown, ca. 1980.

Bill Reid’s The Raven and the First Men is lowered through the skylight for installation on what was once gun emplacement number two. MOA Archives: William McLennan fonds, a043191. Photographer unknown, ca. 1980.

He would integrate one of the circular gun emplacements directly into the middle of the museum to serve as the site for Bill Reid’s monumental work, The Raven and the First Men (1980). As Erickson recounted in 1999, “I suggested to Bill that he plan his work for the gun mount itself, and I would provide a round skylight over it, so that natural light would flood it — like the light of the forest.”

Reflecting back, Moogk says, “I think it’s rather ingenious the way Arthur Erickson decided — given that gun position number two was so solid and large — to incorporate it into the base for the Bill Reid sculpture.”

Bill Reid’s The Raven and the First Men (1980; MOA Collection: Nb1.481) installed where a MK7 gun was once positioned during World War II. Photo by Goh Iromoto.

Bill Reid’s The Raven and the First Men (1980; MOA Collection: Nb1.481) installed where a MK7 gun was once positioned during the Second World War. Photo by Goh Iromoto.

Outside, on MOA’s grounds — the same lands where the Musqueam people, and then soldiers of First and Second World Wars, once took their post — visitors can still see the exteriors of gun emplacements number one and three, flanking either side of the museum.

Arthur Erickson’s architectural feat is all the more remarkable knowing that history has been built directly into its foundations. The site’s buried past is hidden in plain view. On your next visit to MOA, find the hints all around you.


October 29, 2018

The History of UBC’s thriving Arts & Culture District

By Mormei Zanke, Assistant Writer, UBC Brand and Marketing

Museum of Anthropology

In 1951, the world was a turbulent place. Not even a decade prior, countries were at war. Many Canadians had witnessed violence and hatred they had never seen before. In this trying time, the Canadian government, as advised by the Massey Commission, decided Canada’s identity needed to be reinvigorated. The commission (which UBC President Norman MacKenzie had served on in 1949) suggested the arts could provide a greater sense of national community while also reaffirming democracy and freedom of speech.

UBC was influenced by the commission’s findings, and in 1957 a committee was formed, dedicated to creating an arts centre on campus. The hope was to redefine the campus atmosphere and instil it with new energy and creative expression. In 1962, the Frederic Lasserre building opened in the northeast region of campus, and shortly thereafter the Frederic Wood Theatre opened in 1963 followed by the School of Music.

Construction of Frederic Lasserre building, 1962

Construction of Frederic Lasserre building, 1962

Norman  Mackenzie, 1962

Norman Mackenzie, 1962

A naming ceremony for the centre occurred in 1965, and the centre was socially titled the UBC Norman MacKenzie Centre for the Arts. Norman Mackenzie spoke at the event, championing the arts and their importance to society.

“The humanities and the arts have at no time had greater value and importance than in our own contemporary world,” Mackenzie said. “Art is both universal and almost eternal. Our greatest and most enduring gifts from the past are in the fields of the Arts and differences in language and culture are not a barrier to their enjoyment.”

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“To lead our best lives, we don’t just need medicines and technology, chemicals, Instagram and stock exchanges,” Pickman says. “We also need to be consoled in our grief, guided towards wisdom, open to self-knowledge, calm in our anxieties, given new hope and introduced to wider horizons — all huge jobs for which art is a terrifically useful tool.”

Since the first three buildings were built, many more buildings for the arts have followed. The Centre for the Arts (now under the name of the Arts & Culture District), continues to be a distinct cultural and educational experience. The Arts & Culture District fosters community and wellbeing for students by encouraging free artistic expression in the many cultural spaces on campus. Today, the area is home to the Museum of Anthropology, the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, and the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts with the Beatty Biodiversity Museum situated a mere ten minute walk south, down Main Mall.

Chan Centre

The vision for the Arts & Culture District is led by Deb Pickman, a UBC Alum herself who is active in the arts on and off campus. She is attune to the university’s culture scene and has witnessed its growth first hand.

“To lead our best lives, we don’t just need medicines and technology, chemicals, Instagram and stock exchanges,” Pickman says. “We also need to be consoled in our grief, guided towards wisdom, open to self-knowledge, calm in our anxieties, given new hope and introduced to wider horizons — all huge jobs for which art is a terrifically useful tool.”

While the district attracts nearly half a million visitors annually from all over the Lower Mainland and beyond, surprisingly, Pickman says not many students actively take advantage of these resources, most of which are free or discounted for UBC students.

“I was working with a Sauder class to get input on how we can serve students better,” Pickman says. She tells a story of how one student, who had never been to the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, attended a show and had an eye-opening experience.

“It’s fantastic! This is like another world,” was the student’s response. “I don’t even feel like I’m at UBC! Why aren’t there more students here?”

Construction of Belkin Gallery, 1994

Construction of Belkin Gallery, 1994

UBC Music building, 2003

UBC Music building, 2003

Pickman encourages students to attend the Arts & Culture events on campus and urges, “the District is a place to discover new passions.”

Norman MacKenzie would certainly agree with this statement. As he aptly stated at the naming ceremony in 1965: “Through this Centre we hope to place a new emphasis on the arts at a time when science, technology and materialism play such a dominant role in our society. We hope to create more effectively within this university a rounded and balanced life.”

Through Deb Pickman’s efforts and the many individuals who champion the arts at UBC everyday, MacKenzie’s vision is now grounded in a dynamic new arts and culture scene, which is flourishing in 2018.

For more information about upcoming events in the district visit the Arts & Culture District website.


September 23, 2018

The Sopron Story: Looking back 60 years later
How 200 Hungarian forestry students found their way to UBC

By Mormei Zanke, Assistant Writer, UBC Brand and Marketing

Sopron School of Forestry group picture on the steps of the Biology building. January, 1957

Chances are, you know someone who has immigrated to Canada from another part of the world. Whether this person is your grandmother, your father or your friend — you’ve likely heard an immigrant’s tale of persistence and incredible risk, one in which they left everything behind in the hopes of finding a haven from conflict or a place for their descendants to thrive.

Narration by Laszlo Retfalvi, UBC Sopron Alumnus

According to Statistics Canada, approximately 235,000 people have immigrated to Canada every year since the early 1990s. A 2011 census indicates that 20.6% of our total population was foreign-born. The immigrant’s story is a common one in the collective history of Canadians and one that never ceases to humble and inspire. In a world where countries are at war and borders are enforced, these stories are important reminders of what can be accomplished through stewardship and compassion.

While the immigrant population has been steady in recent years, it has fluctuated considerably throughout history, tending to increase in times of global humanitarian difficulties. This was the case in the years 1956 and 1957, during and after the Hungarian revolution, when approximately 37,500 refugees arrived in Canada from Hungary. However, what is not widely known is that roughly 200 of these refugees were forestry students from the town of Sopron, Hungary, who were forced to flee their school. Consequently, they immigrated to Canada to continue their studies at The University of British Columbia.

In November of 1956, the newly formed Hungarian government used force to stop the ongoing revolution by sending Soviet troops to invade multiple Hungarian cities. The students and faculty at the Sopron Forestry School fled across the Hungary border into Austria. Once there, the Dean of the Faculty of Forestry sent letters to twenty different countries to ask for refuge and an alternate educational situation for his students. Canada responded and proposed the students come to UBC to complete their degrees over the course of five years, first in Hungarian and later in English once they adapted to their new environment.

“This was not a planned departure. It happened quickly as the events of November 1956 unfolded,” wrote Dr. Antal (Tony) Kozak, professor emeritus, in his article “Sopron Story”. Tony Kozak was a beloved UBC Faculty of Forestry professor in resource management and a Sopron refugee. He passed away in June, 2017 at the age of 81.

“The Sopron Forestry School exodus was a unique emigration unparalleled in history,” wrote Tony, “A significant portion of a university left a country, while another country adopted them, so that they could continue on with their education in their own language.”

Dr. Antal (Tony) Kozak 1957

Tony Kozak’s son, Robert Kozak, is a UBC professor in sustainable business management and is the current associate dean, academic of the Faculty of Forestry. Robert is familiar with his father’s immigration story and has heard unique anecdotes about the Sopron immigrants’ transition from Hungary to Canada.

“It was very difficult. They were refugees,” Robert says. “They didn’t speak a word of English. It was a brand new culture. The ecosystems that they were studying were incredibly different. They came with virtually nothing.”

The Sopron students were young. At just eighteen or nineteen years of age, they moved across the world, leaving their families behind, not knowing when they might see them again. While their immigration was difficult and born from unfortunate circumstances, the students were resilient and successful in adapting to life in British Columbia. They initially lived at the Powell River Paper Company, where they acclimated to life in Canada and learned English from the loggers who worked there. To earn money, they found odd jobs. Some worked in construction, some on the railroads. They found whatever work they could to provide for themselves in those early years.

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“We were awed by the giant ancient forests and surprised at the rate and means of forest harvesting, but we were quick to adapt,” says Sopron Immigrant, Laszlo Retfalvi in the film “Sopron” created by Clancy Dennehy. “Through out work in forestry we managed to influence practices towards sustainable use.”

“They were big soccer players, all of them,” Robert adds. “The Hungarian team at the time was challenging for the World Cup, so soccer was huge. They set up these pick-up leagues and started playing against the local First Nations, and found more often than not, they would get creamed.”

The Sopron students were able to maintain high spirits and meaningfully connect with local communities in the first few months of their arrival. Once the students graduated, many of them found employment in British Columbia’s forest sector.

“We were awed by the giant ancient forests and surprised at the rate and means of forest harvesting, but we were quick to adapt,” says Sopron Immigrant, Laszlo Retfalvi, in the film Sopron created by Clancy Dennehy. “Through out work in forestry we managed to influence practices towards sustainable use.”

Dr. Robert A. Kozak Professor, Sustainable Business Management Associate Dean, Academic. Photo by Paul Joseph

Without the Sopron students, the forest sector of British Columbia would be very different today. The faculty at UBC would certainly be immensely different without their influence. The Sopron students brought a distinct perspective to their studies at UBC. They encouraged implementation of conservation ethics and sustainability in the work force. These theories were not largely practiced in British Columbia at the time.

The Sopron story is an excellent example of how international perspectives can lead to unique and innovative practices. The Sopron immigrants were able to find refuge at UBC, while also positively benefitting the Faculty of Forestry by creating an exceptional learning environment. It’s a story that is incredibly important to remember, especially at a time when the advantages of diversity are being challenged.

“I’m fearful that we’re becoming awash in racism and xenophobia and fear of people from other places,” says Robert. “We’re seeing our values eroding over time, and I think going back and looking at stories like this helps us to remember that maybe it’s not such a bad thing. [My father] said, coming to Canada was the best thing he ever did. Being a Canadian meant everything to him. To be afforded this opportunity to live in a way that they weren’t oppressed was incredible — just an amazing opportunity. He felt very fortunate.”

To learn more about the UBC Faculty of Forestry visit their website.

References

Dennehy, Clancy. (2017). Sopron. UBC Archives.

Kozak, Robert. (2017). Remembering Tony Kozak. Branchlines. Retrieved from: http://forestry.ubc.ca/files/2017/09/bl-28.3.pdf

Kozak, Tony. (2014). Sopron Story. Retrieved from: http://www.forestry.ubc.ca/general-information/ubc-forestry-history/sopron-story/

Statistics Canada. (2016). 150 Years of Immigration in Canada. Retrieved from: https://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-630-x/11-630-x2016006-eng.htm


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