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May 9, 2002 Only a little imagination needed to visualize new complex



martin Singer, Frederick & Mat Kay Lowy

Arts and Science Dean Martin Singer, Rector Frederick Lowy and Dr. Mary Kay Lowy on site

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

by Robert Scalia

As I walked up the Bryan Building’s original staircase and shook off my umbrella, I was greeted by a brisk wind that carried with it the smell of damp wood and the bone-chilling humidity of cold concrete.

Already, I could see groups of professors and administrators milling about the second floor in their white hard hats, some clinging to glasses of champagne, others stuffing their hands into their pockets to stay warm. We had all been invited on a tour of the new Science Complex at Loyola on this miserable Thursday afternoon. Despite the weather, about 75 of us had shown up.

The building, at this point, struck me as a multi-levelled parking lot: a huge mass of gray concrete interrupted by small 60-watt bulbs and the occasional fixture and ladder. Electrical wiring hung from the ceiling in neat rainbow bundles. Fluorescent orange markings on the floor indicated where the walls would be. The floors were remarkably clean.

Behind a podium and makeshift blue curtains, project managers and Concordia administrators took turns doling out thanks and praise. The construction is about halfway through and on schedule. “This building is going to be smashing,” assured Rector Frederick Lowy.

The speeches were short. We were quickly assembled into groups of about a dozen each for the actual tour. I opted for Lowy’s group, which included Dean of Arts and Science Martin Singer and Exercise Science Chair Bill Sellers.

With Gespro project manager and tour guide Daniel Garant leading the way, we headed east in the building’s North Block. We walked through what would soon become a service corridor for chemistry labs, designed to transport hazardous chemicals and accessible only by swipe card. The huge stainless steel ducts on either side would rid laboratories of potentially hazardous gases through 243 different fume hoods.

As we made our way down the open-air staircase, I clung to the makeshift wooden banister and tried my best to avoid the puddles. By next year, this staircase would be enclosed in glass and lead to the building’s main entrance.

Pointing to the space above it, someone suggested building a terrace so professors could relax between research projects. “For sunbathing,” added Lowy, chuckling.

We were now on the first floor. Those same ducts near the service corridor, I realized, punctured every floor. Garant pointed out that the square ducts were reserved for office and classroom facilities.

We passed boxes full of green plastic plumbing fixtures. We passed the “telecomm room,” where the building’s fibre-optic cables will converge, and the loading docks where chemicals will be transported and stored.

We passed the atrium that will connect with the Bryan Building, where seven art works from Concordia’s permanent collection will be viewed from three different floors.

Thanks to some quick explanations, the tour was completed in roughly 15 minutes. It was only when we had reached the end of the South Block that I grasped the building’s enormity.

Towering over the rest of the campus, the complex’s five floors and greenhouse stared back at me. “I love it,” murmured one professor, equally mesmerized. “It’s fabulous.”

Now, the other tour groups looked minute, their hard hats reduced to white smudges. I had heard Singer explaining during the tour that the roof of the building offered an unobstructed view of Mount Royal and St. Joseph’s Oratory.

I tried to imagine how science graduates would react to having their June 2003 convocation on the campus lawns with the building as the backdrop. Singer confided to us during his opening speech that this is his personal dream. I sure hope it doesn’t rain.