Students relaxing on the lawn

Sept. 8, 2022

Four relaxing campus green spaces you might have missed

Lie back and watch the clouds go by at these quiet, lesser-known outdoor spots on main campus.

It’s fair to say that for half of the year, University of Calgary students dream of a time when grass is dry enough to lie on, the sun is warm enough for short sleeves, and there’s just enough time between classes to squeeze in a quick snooze, or a chapter or two in an exciting book at their favourite outdoor spot.

For many, the first attempt at a campus catnap takes place at the TFDL Quad, Swann Mall or the Engineering Quad. You can tell who the first-timers are — they’re looking around, switching places and all in all, can’t get no satisfaction. While these are all great places to play a game of frisbee or witness the hustle (or shuffle) of campus life, the mix of human traffic and “presents” left by wildlife (we’re looking at you, Canada geese) makes relaxing uncomfortable at best.

So, why not change it up? UCalgary’s main campus is HUGE and there are plenty of nearby, underexplored spaces where you can take a load off.

University Theatre south courtyard

University Theatre south courtyard

Students of the fine arts, languages and the humanities have probably seen this hidden gem on their way to classes in Craigie Hall. Tucked inside the horseshoe of buildings behind the south side of the Taylor Family Digital Library (TFDL) lies a grassy courtyard covered by large, shade-giving elm trees, and a variety of bench and grass seating options. Once a popular spot for Pokémon Go players, this enclosed piece of paradise is home only to birds.

Entry is easiest from the TFDL library parking, but the space can be accessed from the University Theatre as well.

Mini courtyard university theatre

Travis Dickie, Student Enrolment Services

University Theatre north ‘mini’ courtyard

Unlike its southern cousin above, the north courtyard (ok, it’s a walking path) is a shady, foliage-rich space that features its very own bronze grizzly bear guardian.

Shrouded in native plants and trees, this contemplative space is a great spot to enjoy your lunch in nature and still see the action on the TFDL Quad from behind the trees. Look for the bear statue and you’ve found the space.

The long lawn of the Magyar Centennial Gateway

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

The long lawn next to the Magyar Centennial Gateway

Shady spaces with lots of vegetation may offer a sense of closed-in comfort, but there’s nothing quite like a long lawn with plenty of sunlight when you’re looking to relax. If you like people-watching from a distance, enjoy the sound of chickadees chattering, and need your daily dose of Vitamin D, you’ll find prime real estate for all three next to the Magyar Centennial Gateway statue just south of the C-Train platform stairs.

Looking for more privacy? Continue southward — the lawn goes on and on and on.

Underneath the trees behind the Professional Faculties building and Scurfield Hall

Travis Dickie

Underneath the trees behind the Professional Faculties building

The unsung hero of this list is the space that sits in plain sight, and by most standards, is not terribly remarkable on first (or even second) glance.

Commuters to the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, the Haskayne School of Business or elsewhere pass through the space daily — looking ahead toward their destination and ignoring the beauty of the space. It’s not until you pause, look up at the large canopy of balsam poplars, or witness the long shadows cast over the ground on a winter day that the space begins to mean something special.

There are plenty of interesting and out-of-the-way spaces at the University of Calgary. If you’re curious about plans for the campus landscape, be sure to check out the Main Campus Landscape Plan and its commitment to build a welcoming and inclusive landscape in the years to come.