From the bizarre Butterdome to the 1921-built Dentistry & Pharmacy Building, the University of Alberta campus is sprinkled with a number of unique architectural treasures. Many of them have their own lounging spaces for study, relaxation or conversation, but its the Students' Union Building that serves as the unifying social centre for the school. Commonly known as SUB, the building was envisaged as a "constant symbol of the value of free, autonomous student government," and 50 years after its erection, still represents that ideal.
The three-storey building was constructed in 1967, when concrete found popular use as a cladding material. Employing Brutalist idioms, a three-storey precast concrete podium fastened itself to the streetscape and provided a plinth for a six-storey tower clad in smoked glass curtain wall.
The project was of the students' own volition. The design, construction and financing of the building were entirely arranged by students, and upon its inauguration, became the largest and most complete student space in the country. A number of oddities and amenities characterized the complex, including a cast-iron mural on the south facade by award-winning artist Jordi Bonet, a fire pit evoking the flame logo of the students' union, a 750-seat performance theatre, an eight-lane bowling alley, and six sheets of curling ice.
Several renovations over the years have attempted to address the evolving needs of students. A 1993 renovation expanded relaxation and study space, while introducing a new food court to the building. Another renovation ten years later created new service space on the second floor and the SUBstage area on the main floor. The most recent renovation, conducted in 2015, focused on enhancing the building's external appearance, particularly the southern wall, which was graced with a new two-storey glass atrium and outdoor patio. The renovation significantly expanded student social and study spaces, making it one of the most vibrant hubs on the campus.
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