University Square

Groups of people wander in and around the large tent at University Square.
Dual donors give $1 million to uOttawa oasis

Warm and welcoming multi-use meeting spot in the heart of uOttawa’s campus receives funding from the Alumni Association and partner Johnson Inc.

University Square, with its distinctive zig-zag patterned plaza, is where first-year students attend Welcome Week events, it’s where the University of Ottawa’s women’s rugby team celebrated a historical victory after winning the 2017 U Sports National Championship, and it’s where alumni gather under a futuristic dome during Alumni Week.

Clearly, this innovative hub in the heart of uOttawa’s campus is living up to its promise as a welcoming space that brings the entire community together.

The Alumni Association and Johnson Inc. have each contributed $500,000 to help the University bring its vision of a modern take on the traditional university quad to life. A plinth recognizing their respective contributions was unveiled at the site on May 5 during Alumni Week 2018.

University of Ottawa president Jacques Frémont said: “One of the best features of this space is our ability to cover it, either entirely with a dome capable of sheltering 1,600 people, or partially for smaller groups and events. The site benefits the entire University community.”

“This generous donation is also an important gift as it brings us closer to the goal of our Defy the Conventional campaign, which is to raise $400 million. And this sum is well within reach, given that we have already raised $250 million to date,” Frémont added.

In 2015, what used to be a parking lot located next to the Faculty of Social Sciences Building was transformed into a pedestrian oasis. High-tech features, such as tent-anchoring foundations and underground wiring, mean that a futuristic dome can be erected on the site whenever needed to host concerts, receptions, theatrical productions and public lectures.

Elizabeth Rody, president of the Alumni Association, said: “The transformation of this space has been truly amazing. It will benefit students, alumni and the wider public for generations to come.”

Rob Jesso, Vice President, Consulting & Affinity at Johnson Inc., said: “Johnson is a proud supporter of students and the education industry, and shares their passion for sustainability and community engagement. We are delighted to support such an exciting initiative.”

The Alumni Association provides its 210,000 members with services and activities that enrich the careers and lives of alumni and help them stay connected to their alma mater. Johnson Inc. provides home, auto and travel insurance. Both have demonstrated long-standing commitment to the University, including a significant investment to help build Alex Trebek Alumni Hall.

University Square fun facts:

  • Over one hundred 40-foot steel piles were embedded in the ground to anchor the tent.
  • A total of 52 trees, 579 shrubs, and 720 ornamental grasses and perennials will decorate the space, although it will take years for some of the trees to mature.
  • The tent’s maximum capacity is 3,000 people standing, or around 1,600 seated with a view of the stage.
  • A dedicated storm water management system, which includes underground water retention pits, was installed to slow the flow of water into City of Ottawa storm sewers.
  • A carefully planned 2.9-kilometre network of power and communications conduits are buried underground to service the tent, which eliminates the need for noisy generators or for hundreds of cables lying across the floor.

In 2015, the University of Ottawa launched a $400-million fundraising campaign: Defy the Conventional: The Campaign for uOttawa, which is raising funds to support priorities in every faculty. The campaign will help uOttawa recruit and retain top talent and enrich the student experience. Donations will also support innovative capital projects.

Donors stand next to the plinth recognizing their financial contribution to University Square.

(From left) Kathryn Butler Malette, Chair of the Board of Governors at the University of Ottawa; Rob Jesso, Vice President, Consulting and Affinity, Johnson Inc.; Elizabeth Rody, president of the Alumni Association, and Shawn McCord, Senior Manager, Ottawa & National Groups Consulting, Johnson Inc.

An aerial view of the tent and green space at University Square.


University Square

Donors of $500 or more are entered into the Tabaret Society

The University Square is a multipurpose central space built to provide a central social gathering spot for the university's community as well as a venue for many different special events.

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