Favourites haunts at McGill by Daniel McCabe, BA’89

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McGill is an awfully big place, with about 300 buildings spread out over two campuses.  But most of us experience McGill in small chunks. The classrooms we attend. The research labs we work in. The libraries we frequent. The places we go to grab a bite. And, over time, we form powerful attachments to a few of those places in particular. We asked students and professors to tell us about the special spots that have become near and dear to their hearts. Here are some of their responses.

The Arts Building’s steps

English literature student Todd Plummer (Photo: Will Lew)

“I love the steps of the Arts Building at dusk in the springtime,” says Todd Plummer, an English literature student who recently concluded a one-year term as the vice-president internal of the Students’ Society of McGill University. “The sunlight comes over the mountain and reflects off of all the buildings downtown,” says Plummer. “It creates the most beautiful glow over the entire campus!” Plummer, who spent a summer at Vogue thanks to the Faculty of Arts Internship Program, is heading back to the Big Apple after he graduates this spring to take on another internship, this time at the New York Times Style Magazine.

The terrace outside the Macdonald Stewart-Raymond Complex

Dean of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Chandra Madramootoo (Photo: Will Lew)

When Dean of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Chandra Madramootoo, BSc’77, MSc’81, PhD’85, needs to stretch his legs, he heads out to the newly landscaped terrace located just outside the Macdonald Stewart-Raymond Complex, the focal point for much of the academic activity that takes place at the West Island-based Macdonald Campus. The terrace offers a glimpse of Lac Saint-Louis and it’s situated close to the playing field where rugby games are frequently contested. It’s also home to the statue of Sir William Macdonald, the campus’s founder. “It’s a brilliant piece of landscaping,” says Madramotoo, and a perfect spot to “enjoy the stillness, serenity and beauty of the campus.”

The Faculty Club

Economics professor William Watson lunches with colleagues at the Faculty Club (Photo: Alex Tran)

Economics professor William Watson, BA’74, may no longer be the editorial pages editor of the Ottawa Citizen (a position he held in the late nineties), but he is still a keen observer of world events. And he enjoys having access to the opinions of experts from a broad range of fields—namely, his fellow McGill professors. Watson (seen here on the left sharing a laugh with his departmental colleague Chris Ragan) and his lunchmates regularly assemble at McGill’s Faculty Club to dissect the news of the day. During this particular meal, his companions included a historian, a sociologist, an anthropologist, two engineers and a library and information studies scholar.

The McIntyre Medical Sciences Building Cafeteria

Management student Anushka Pinto (Photo: Will Lew)

When management student Anushka Pinto wants to eat outside, she makes her way toward the McIntyre Medical Sciences Building and its fifth-floor cafeteria. “It is perfect on a lovely sunny summer day, with blue skies above and sun everywhere,” says Pinto, a native of the United Arab Emirates and the president of the McGill International Students’ Network. The food is good, she says, and the ambience of the outdoor dining area, which faces downtown Montreal, is even better. “I also love it because it is relatively secret. It’s a great place to just sit, eat, think, reflect and absorb everything around you.”

The Redpath Museum

Architecture professor Avi Friedman (Photo: Alex Tran)

Architecture professor Avi Friedman, MArch’83, spends a lot of time thinking about public spaces with out-of-the-ordinary charms—the sorts of special spots that enliven communities and add a certain sparkle to their surrounding environments. His most recent book, A Place in Mind: The Search for Authenticity, focused on the importance of preserving these places. For him, the Redpath Museum is one such spot. “It has the feeling of a long-gone architecture and it is magnificently suited to display things for which it is currently used. If Indiana Jones was a professor at McGill, this is where he would probably display his artifacts.”

Islamic Studies Library

Environmental studies student Christian Elliott (Photo: Owen Egan)

Located in Morrice Hall, the Islamic Studies Library houses more than 150,000 items related to the unique contributions of the Muslim world to philosophy, literature, history, religion, science and other areas. It’s also a visual treat. The library’s octagon room is Christian Elliott’s favourite place at McGill. He praises the library’s “ornately carved wood details, the huge and expansive 20-person circular desk [where you can] spread your study material far and wide, and the 10-metre atrium space adorned with stained glass windows, where lofty ideas find their home.” An environmental studies student, Elliott is the co-founder of Developing Pictures Media, which aims to foster a better understanding of the challenges faced by people in developing countries through the use of digital media. He and fellow student Alex Pritz earned Dalai Lama Fellowships last year for a video project that connected Filipino schoolchildren with peers in Westmount.

The bridge connecting the Montreal Neurological Institute to the Royal Victoria Hospital

Associate professor of neurology Lesley Fellows (Photo: Will Lew)

Associate professor of neurology Lesley Fellows, BSc’90, MDCM’95, acknowledges that her pick isn’t exactly “a Bridge of Sighs,” at first glance, particularly in terms of its nondescript interior. But she makes a compelling case, nonetheless. It’s “a place to pause between two busy institutions and contemplate either a little slice of the beauty of Mount Royal or of downtown Montreal, depending on the window one chooses,” says Fellows. “When I walk across that bridge, it captures the shift in my own duties from neuroscientist at the MNI to clinical neurologist consulting in the Royal Vic emergency room. I take those few metres, quite literally suspended between two very different roles, as a chance to change gears while reminding myself of the existence of a wider world beyond.”

The Burnside Hall Building’s basement

Biological, biomedical and life sciences student Sarah Jameel (Photo: Owen Egan)

Biological, biomedical and life sciences student Sarah Jameel is a big fan of Burnside Hall’s basement, especially when the crunch is on to complete assignments. It’s the “one place on campus where you can get away, literally underground, regardless of whether it is hailing outside or just plain gloomy,” says Jameel, the founder of Kick the Butt, an anti-smoking organization that uses social media and fashion to persuade teens to steer clear of cigarettes. Her work with the group resulted in an invitation to take part in the World Economic Forum in 2010. Jameel says Burnside’s basement, which is open 24/7 for study purposes, is the ideal place “to spend hours without knowing what time it is, or the light of day, and still get your work done.”

First Peoples’ House

Law student Joey Flowers (Photo: Will Lew)

Peel Street provides plenty of food options, everything from high-end Portuguese cuisine to sushi to pub fare. But there is only one place on the street that serves soup and bannock every Wednesday and Thursday for lunch—the cozy brownstone that lodges McGill’s First Peoples’ House. The bannock must be good. Law student Joey Flowers, BA’08, lunches there frequently and, as a trained chef, chances are he is a choosy eater. But the bannock, a tasty frybread that’s popular in aboriginal communities, isn’t the only draw. “I like First Peoples’ House because of the sense of community I feel there,” says Flowers, who will soon become the first Inuk from Nunavik to earn a law degree. First Peoples’ House focuses on making the transition to university life less stressful for aboriginal students—by pairing first-year students with more experienced aboriginal peers, for instance. “It provides a network of support and friendship which connects indigenous students from all levels and study areas,” says Flowers.

Downtown lower campus

Chancellor H. Arnold Steinberg (Photo: Will Lew)

“Having started at McGill 62 years ago, and having been in and around McGill in various degrees of frequency since, clearly my favourite places have changed over the years,” says Chancellor H. Arnold Steinberg, BCom’54, LLD’00. “For example, the Redpath Museum, where I attended lectures in my early years was, I thought, one of the least attractive places at the University. With the total re-make in recent years, it has become one of my favourites. It is extraordinarily interesting as well as being beautiful and tranquil. On warm days I love watching people lying and playing on the lower campus – students and children. We Montrealers are truly fortunate to have such a glorious space in the heart of downtown.”

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