If These Walls Could Talk: A Site for Art, Architecture and Defence
By Bonnie Sun, Senior Marketing and Communications Manager, Museum of Anthropology
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.