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In the Science Theatres, a wooden box has been built where the Zipper was installed. // Photo by Mariah Wilson.

The University of Calgary has an identity crisis

By Ramiro Bustamante Torres, January 28 2019—

As many students have already noticed — especially those that transit through Science Theatres — the Zipper is gone. To some, it was a beloved good luck charm. To the engineers, it was a cautionary tale of their predecessors’ folly and hubris. Its absence has brought to light that many things have been changing at the university in recent years. The major renovation of the Swann Mall and the MacKimmie Complex is very present in every student’s life — especially if you’re in Science A trying to make it to your class in the Education Block and you only have five minutes. Your options are limited to booking it through construction country. Along with this major renovation, the Prairie Chicken has been removed from university grounds and stored away.

The Prairie Chicken, in my experience, had acted as a landmark to meet up or help give directions for those unaware of U of C’s maze-like pathways. The painted Rock is still around, and it’s continuously being worked on, but there is a new look developing at the university. The engineering complex has been receiving an extensive facelift these last couple years and the steps in front of MacHall facing the Quad have been sporting a new colour. With the MacKimmie Tower being completed its neighbouring building being the next construction project — however, not for another set of years — the university is thankfully losing its brutalist style. 

These changes might feel annoying since they have been getting in the way of student life with the constant construction equipment being moved and the changing paths, but we’re also losing recognition of the university identity built as it changes. A part of the university identity is that we’re known as a commuter campus. I don’t want our university’s identity to just reflect that, so if the ongoing construction represents a changing identity, so be it. As a newer university, we need to show off a new look. Other universities like the University of British Columbia or the University of Toronto have a history that uses their old buildings to form their identity, but U of C has no excuse. We had humble beginnings but the direction we are moving in must be shiny and new. Glass buildings, self-sustained buildings and buildings that reflect more modern architecture are helping the campus stand out. Maybe we can lose our commuter campus epitaph for a better one — one that exemplifies a good community that students want to be a part of.

This new vision still has a long way to go. The MacKimmie Complex won’t be completed until 2022, but we are in a new decade and hopefully, we’ll be able to have our university recognized for its innovation and forward-thinking. As well, for those worried about the state of the Zipper, you can visit it at the Esker Foundation for free, where it is loaned out for an exhibition starting Jan. 24. The Prairie Chicken will also return once the renovations of Swann Mall are completed in 2022. Maybe this decade will bring a new, better identity to the campus community.

This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet‘s editorial board.

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