I didn’t really encounter the qualities and virtues of quadrangles until I went to university. University College at University of Toronto has a quad with a lot of character, bordered by well-travelled cloisters, its walkways worn down by more than a century and a half of students hurrying – or dawdling – to class. University College is the original building at UofT, and defines the evolving architecture of that campus as School House does here at SMUS, in our less imposing setting. Regardless of the ambitions of the architecture, however, the role of the quad in contributing to a life that is alternately vibrant, reflective, social and intellectual strikes me almost every day – either as I look out my window onto the grassy space beside School House, or as I walk out the lower doors of the School Library into the more newly created Crothall quad.
Paul Merrick, the architect responsible for the most recent development of our Richmond Road campus, was expressive from the outset about the texture a quadrangle adds to a social and intellectual community. He also created a sort of interior quadrangle in the new library: as soon as you step through the lower doors, you enter a space that has a wonderful volume and shape, and which – much to the librarian’s occasional chagrin – lives up to the potential of such spaces for human socializing. Students love to gather there.
The quadrangle itself is borrowed from the shape and function of the town square. Older towns and villages have squares spread throughout their design, spaces that break up the utilitarian rows of houses and streets and say to the populace that you have to pause now: you can go around, or you can sit on a bench and wile away some time, but you are going to pause whatever you do. On important occasions, too, the town gathers in the square, the market erects its colour and smells and bustle, or solemn events unfold.
The same is true at SMUS. Today, for instance, at the Senior School the students mounted their various activities associated with Keep the Beat, a day-long series of events that raises money for War Child, an organization that supports children who are the victims of war. Our School is one of the main school fundraisers for War Child: last year the organization produced a video that features our school and a few others – which you can watch here. If you watch the video you will see that our school gets more than its share of attention.
Today the quad is full of students selling t-shirts, sunglasses, making music at the lunchtime concert, making noise at the afternoon drum circle. The place bustles, it vibrates, and it brings a huge smile to our faces, and the benefit of support to the children who are the victims of war, and the benefit of character to our students who perform the service.