This research explores the spectrum of public accessibility at selected central public spaces at the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus and Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby campus. As both universities are progressing towards urbanization and density, knowing how their public spaces are used by students and the general public alike can advise future directions for campus planning and policy. These two major universities provide housing for a growing residential population and publics that are not necessarily registered students, or employees. Moreover, as both campuses are working to provide increased accessibility to their spaces through public transportation, they will need to chart out directions on how to navigate their seemingly contrasting missions as institutions for higher education while accommodating residents and a diverse demographic of space users who have no direct association with the university. Taking inspiration from methodologies used to study privately owned public spaces, structured observations of physical features, and interviews, the author finds disagreement among interpretations to the degree of publicness of university spaces commonly assumed to be “public”. The findings demonstrate the changing nature and meaning of campus spaces through time, as both universities navigate the challenges and opportunities of finding ways to accommodate a greater range of students, residents, and other space users.
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