Building a Provincial University - Part 2

Sharp and Thompson campus plan 1914 - UBC Archives photo #1.1/1331In February 1912, Henry Young announced a competition open to Canadian architects for the design of four buildings that were to be undertaken at once and a sketch of the Point Grey campus. In submitting their final report in November 1912, competition assessors expressed disappointment that there had been only twelve submissions from which to choose. Although some consideration was given to reopening and expanding the competition the competition to include all of the British Empire, local architects Sharp and Thompson were named winners of the design competition and were appointed University architects.

Although the government did provide funds to begin land-clearing operations at Point Grey, final decisions about design issues were to be left until the appointment of the new University president. Following a thorough search, Education Minister Young described Frank F. Wesbrook in the Legislature on February 16, 1913 as follows:

Frank Fairchild Wesbrook - UBC Archives photo #37.1/9What we wanted was first of all a Canadian, young enough to take charge vigorously, a man imbued by our Western ideals and Western enthusiasm, a man thoroughly capable for the hardest job outside that of Premier in British Columbia. And I say to-night we are getting that man. He is a man in the prime of life. He is a Canadian. Dr. Wesbrook is his name and he is at present Dean of the Medical Faculty of the University of Minnesota, a man who has fought his way up and holds an academic reputation second to none.

After arriving in Vancouver in August 1913, Wesbrook turned his attention almost immediately to planning for the new Point Grey campus. He worked closely with the University architects and a consulting commission consisting of a landscape architect, consulting architect and an engineer. These men worked in co-operation with architects Sharp and Thompson to review and report "upon the general design of the University".

Wesbrook and campus design commission - UBC Archives photo #1.1/816In its report to the Board in 1913, the commission described its vision for the University as "an institution of the first order whose scope shall be co-extensive with the educational needs of the Province. This involves provision for a State University comparable in the range and magnitude of its activities to the seats of learning of any country in the world."

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 saw the government on the verge of letting the tender for construction of the Science Building. With new demands on the province's financial resources, the Board returned the tenders unopened and allowed the project funds to revert to the Provincial Treasury. After seeking the approval of the government, the Board did call for tenders for the excavation and concrete framework for the building and work began in September 1914.