Bicentennial Common promises a public space for all

- November 23, 2018

An artist's rendering of what a portion of the Bicentennial Common could look like. (Provided image)
An artist's rendering of what a portion of the Bicentennial Common could look like. (Provided image)

As Dal’s 200th anniversary nears its end, excitement is ramping up about a new public space in the works to honour the legacy of the university’s bicentennial in the years ahead.

Attendees at the Dal 200 Wrap Up event on Nov. 29 will get their first glimpse into the look and feel of the Bicentennial Common — an ambitious reimaging of the high-traffic area stretching from LeMarchant Street and up past the Killam Library to the beginning of the upper portion of Studley Quad.

A large-format schematic on display will provide a bird’s-eye view of what the space will look like in the first phase of its redevelopment, as well as new seating, tables and other small additions. It will be an early taste of what promises to be an ongoing evolution — one that will continue to be based on input from the Dal community.

Elevating space

The redevelopment — first flagged in the 2010 Campus Master Plan — aims to elevate the form, function and cultural significance of the high-traffic 60,000-square foot area in the heart of Studley Campus.

“We’re trying to make a space where everyone feels comfortable and welcome and that they belong in the space,” says Nathan Rogers, assistant director of capital planning for Facilities Management at Dal.

New elements will be introduced, including more green space, free wi-fi, concrete pavers, flexible seating, event infrastructure and a ceremonial circle for cultural activities, but the day-to-day programming and use of the space will be up to the Dal community.  

Some people might visit the site to hang out and relax with friends in between classes, others to take in a cultural performance or experience, and others still to participate in games or physical activity.

Rogers led a year-long engagement process with the Dal community — including an online survey, 25 stakeholder engagement meetings and eight pop-up sessions — to gather ideas for the space.

One potential event suggested for the space by Dal’s Indigenous Advisory Council was a birch-bark canoe-building workshop. Another potential idea discussed was for the Dalhousie Student Union to hold its weekly farmer’s market outside in the space.

The aim, says Rogers, is for the area to be flexible enough to improve existing activities like DalFest, the President’s Fun Run, Colour Fest and Orientation Week, while providing opportunities for those new day-to-day activities.

Designing a legacy

To help create a design that accommodates such a broad range of potential uses, Dal has tapped Halifax-based Ekistics Planning and Design (who did the Argyle Street redevelopment) to work on the schematics for the project.

As its name implies, the Bicentennial Common will also serve as a legacy project for Dal’s 200th anniversary. The iconic Dal 200 sign now on the upper part of Studley Quad will be integrated into the project and a time capsule filled with items submitted by members of the Dal community will be incorporated as a fun element for a future celebration. 

“What better way to reimagine this space than as a bridge between Dal’s rich past and its bright future,” says Catherine Bagnell Styles, assistant vice-president of communications & marketing and Dal 200 chair.

“We can’t wait to see how the Dal community helps bring this connection alive.”


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