The Centre Wing of the Chemistry Building (also known as the D-Wing) is one of the three original permanent buildings built on the University of British Columbia’s Point Grey Campus in Vancouver, British Columbia. Initial construction began in 1914, but halted when Canada joined World War I.
When the war ended in 1918, construction did not resume despite the increase in enrolment numbers; from 379 in 1915 to 1,530 in 1919. Instead, university classes were held at the old McGill University College campus in Fairview, church basements, private residences, and other locations across Vancouver that would fit a classroom full of students. Chemistry classes were also held in a legendary “chemistry tent” at the Fairview campus.
In 1922, a student led “Build the University” movement emerged as an effort to push for the building of new facilities and classrooms for the university. This led to the Great Trek, where approximately 1200 students marched from downtown Vancouver to the Point Grey Campus, gathering at the unfinished Chemistry Building (see photo below) to bring awareness to the need for more facilities.
As a result, construction resumed in 1923, and the Chemistry Building was completed in 1925. Designed initially for chemistry and chemical engineering, the building also held classes for physics, bacteriology, and public health. After 1949, the building was officially named the “Chemistry Building.”
Chemical engineering and chemistry were eventually divided into separate departments, and in 1963, the chemical engineering annex was replaced by the current “C-Block” of the building. C-block currently houses learning spaces for undergraduate students. In 1959, B-Block was completed, housing teaching laboratories. In 1962, E-Block was built, housing administrative offices. Today, E-Block is predominately devoted to research. In 1989, A-Block, an additional research space, was added, expanding the Chemistry Building to a total of 5 wings.
In 2008, the Centre Block underwent a $120- million renovation as part of the UBC Renew project and reopened with renewals and improvements.
Today, the Chemistry Building is a space that includes classrooms, research labs, learning labs, and offices for the chemistry department at the University of British Columbia. The Chemistry Building is also frequently used as a set in various film and television programs (X-men, Supernatural, X-files, Psych, etc.) because of its historic architecture.