The knoll: a hill to die on?

To outsiders, it’s an unassuming grassy slope, but for those in the know, the knoll is a beloved campus landmark – the place friends sprawl in the shade to study, or the enticing hill to which first-years flock on snowy days with cafeteria-trays-turned-sleds. Given the knoll’s halcyon vibe, few would guess that this lump of earth has periodically been the centre of roiling controversy. 

Today’s knoll is actually UBC’s second: the first was unceremoniously razed during the 1975 construction of the Aquatic Centre. Students bereft of their hangout spot called to have their green space restored, and eventually the knoll (phoenix-like!) was reborn with dirt left over from the construction that had consumed it in the first place. 

Photo: AMS Archives
Photo: AMS Archives

All was then peaceful for our humble hill until the mid-2000s, when UBC proposed bulldozing the knoll to make way for a condo, store fronts, and an underground bus loop. A ferocious backlash ensued. Anti-development groups occupied the knoll for weeks, signed petitions, lit bonfires, and staged concerts – Knoll-aid and Knoll-aid 2.0 – during which, amid chants of “F—k the man!” and “Save the knoll!”, 19 students were arrested. Inevitably, a handful of (not-so-serious) counter-protesters emerged, too, bearing signs that said “Kno to the knoll!” 

Photo: David Zhang
Photo: David Zhang

The story ends happily for the knoll, of course: administrators heeded students’ calls for green space and community over commercialism, and the Nest (built by students in lieu of the original proposals) incorporates and even celebrates the knoll by extending the slope into an indoor amphitheatre.

At last, the knoll is presumably safe from bulldozers. Should anyone try to raze it again, however, it’s a fair bet that students are willing to make a mountain out of this molehill.