Our Chemistry Centre Block or "Chemistry D” building is one of the most notable buildings on campus. The heritage site is often used as a set in various film and television programs (X-men, Supernatural, X-files, Psych, etc.) because of its appealing architecture and historical feel. The structure was one of three original permanent buildings built on the Point Grey Campus. Construction began in 1914 and about $80,000 was invested in the buildings’ reinforced concrete frame. In 1915 the war effort mobilized and construction was halted. When the war ended in 1918 construction did not resume; university enrollment, however, rose from 379 students total in 1915 to 1,530 in 1919. During this lull in construction, university classes were held at the old McGill University College campus in Fairview, church basements, or private residences- any places that might hold a number of students. Chemistry classes were held in the legendary “chemistry tent” at the Fairview site.
In 1922 the “Build the University” movement, a student lead and highly organized campaign, emerged and led to the Great Trek.
The image above shows the demonstrators from the Great Trek who gathered upon skeleton of the Chemistry Centre Block building. This campaign was a great success, and as a result, construction on the building was resumed in 1923. The Chemistry building was completed in 1925, and this second phase of construction cost about $880,000. Though, it was designed for chemistry, the building held classes in Physics, Bacteriology and Public Health as well. After 1949 the building became the Chemistry Building, which at that time included Chemical Engineering. For a period of time, there was an annex behind the building that housed the Engineers, but they moved out once their own building was built in the early 60’s. The annex they occupied was torn down in 1962 to make way for the C-Block addition to Centre Block.
The Chemistry Centre (now D-Block) has had four new wings added over the years. B-Block, that primarily houses the teaching laboratories, opened in 1959. E-Block was opened in 1962 and was where the administrative offices were housed once it opened but now the space is devoted to research. C-Block created new space for undergraduate students when it opened in 1963, and A-Block, another area for research, went up in 1989. Not having had any updates for some time, the Centre Block underwent a $120- million renovation as part of the UBC Renew project (hyperlink to renovations page) and reopened in March of 2008 with renewals and improvements.
Great Chemists and Great Discoveries in Centre Block (D-Block):
- Bartlett and the first noble gas compound
- Shapiro, Quantum Control of Molecular Systems
- Edward Piers, Organic Chemistry
- Marshall, Comisarow and FTICR
- MacDowell, magnetic resonance
- Halpern, Molecular kinetics
- Kutney, biotechnology and the chemistry of natural products
- Dolphin, QLT