In defence of the Burnaby campus

This campus does not deserve all the criticism it gets about its looks

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Luke’s lovely photo, quite possibly.
Get outta here with your “prison architecture” comments! PHOTO: Amirul Anirban / The Peak

By: C Icart, SFU Student

We’ve all complained, but it’s time to face it: the Burnaby campus is a uniquely beautiful place to go to school. Our main campus tends to be known for its concrete buildings and brutalist architecture. But it’s so much more than the go-to for movies that need a chilly, foreboding atmosphere. The campus has a rich history, a gorgeous conservation area, fantastic art, and unrivaled views. 

SFU is a commuter school, so most students attend class and immediately go home. That sucks! Partly because it undermines school spirit, but more importantly because it means that students don’t get a chance to fully explore what the campus has to offer. We’ve got so many hidden gems. A personal favourite of mine is the Djavad Mowafaghian courtyard next to Blusson Hall. It has a lovely fountain, picnic tables, and a ton of greenery making it a nice place to chill with friends between classes or a very relaxing outdoor study spot. Top that, Habour Centre!

The Skwxwu7mesh (Squamish) place name for Burnaby Mountain is Lhuḵw’lhuḵw’áyten, meaning where the bark gets pe[e]led in spring.” This name refers to the bark of the Arbutus tree that the Skwxwu7mesh people have seasonally harvested for generations. It’s a testament to a rich regional tradition that’s deeply rooted in an appreciation of the environment. It’s a tradition that we as students should continue by valuing the campus’ surroundings. 

SFU’s location atop Lhuḵw’lhuḵw’áyten also means students get to casually enjoy a breathtaking view of the mountains from many places. The sixth floor of the AQ and the SUB ballroom are some of my favourite spots to snap a pic. The outdoor seating at West Mall Centre is also a fantastic spot.

If you want to spend even more time admiring this location, stay after class and head to the conservation area. The rose garden and eco-sculptures are stunning, and so is the view of the Burrard Inlet and the Vancouver skyline. It’s also an unreal spot to take photos during cherry blossom season. It’s the perfect area for a picnic and to catch the sunset. For those who prefer more active study breaks, the Burnaby campus is surrounded by gorgeous trails. Whether you’re into running, biking, or leisurely walks, there’s a trail for you.

Students who aren’t in the mood to explore the rainforest may be interested in grabbing a public art guide at the SFU gallery on the third floor of the AQ and discovering the diverse art this campus offers. The guide leads you through three walks across the Burnaby campus and allows you to admire a selection of works from the Simon Fraser Art Collection. My favourite is the second walk which highlights a number of Indigenous and anti-colonial pieces in the AQ, including Insurgent Message for Canada, a digital print by Edgar Heap of Birds that reads “IMPERIAL CANADA WHERE IS YOUR STATUS CARD?” 

With the proposed gondola finally approved, we’re one step closer to resolving one of the actual problems with the Burnaby campus: that commute! Enough with the think-pieces about how our campus is “one big design flaw.” The Burnaby campus absolutely rules. Everyone else is just jealous.