Remembering the 7th Floor Lab

On July 7, I decided to dedicate some real time to work on my Strategy paper, so I headed where I always did when I needed to focus: the 7th floor lab at Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre campus.

It was a routine perfected over the course of 10 semesters at the school: grab some lunch at the food court downstairs, purchase a drink from Dollarama on my way up the stairs, then head up using the elevators near the SFU Bookstore.

But what I saw when I got up there really slammed home the fact that my time at the school was coming to an end.

SFU Harbour Old
SFU’s Harbour Centre campus before renovations. Image source: van12k92 on Flickr

I remember my first time at the Harbour Centre campus.

It was Grade 9, and my friends and I were taking the newly-constructed Canada Line on our way to an adventure. Getting off at the Vancouver City Centre station, we walked across the street to London Drugs, then to Seymour Street where we visited 7-Eleven and A&W for a quick bite. Finally, we ended up making our way to what I thought was the iconic spinning restaurant.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw all the SFU logo. I was a few years away from post-secondary education at that point, and schools were the furthest thing from my mind. Still, I thought to myself, surprised:

“this is where the big and famous SFU is? The building looks tiny!”

Fast forward five years later, and I was taking my first course there as an SFU student. By that point, I realized that SFU really was massive, with a 1.7 km² main campus sitting atop Burnaby Mountain. Having taken the one-and-a-half-hour long ride up the bumpy, bumpy road five days a week for my first semester, however, I was excited to spend one evening a night downtown learning about macroeconomics.

Now if you’re just entering the building (like I did during Frosh), you couldn’t tell there were more than three floors to it. At street level, all you see is two sets of escalators: one going up and one going down.

The real gems, however, were hidden away and only accessible by the elevator. These included a password-protected student lounge on the third floor with a kitchen and wall outlets, as well as a study area on the same floor with a view of the beautiful False Creek waterfront. However, the buried treasure was stowed all the way up on the 7th floor.

7th Floor Lab Computers
These computers were running Windows 7 during my time.

HCC7050, otherwise known as the 7th floor lab, contained 30 Dell computers as well as equipment for instructors. These computers were laid out on six workbench-style desks with ample room for spreading out books and papers. It was usually pretty quiet, with only a few people in there at a time, all keeping to themselves.

I discovered this lab for the very first time looking for a place to study for my Economics final. I remember checking the previously-mentioned lounge and deciding that it was too crowded before heading back into the elevator. There, I pushed floors 4, 5, and 6, but none of those buttons worked. Finally, the elevator began moving when I hit the big red 7. Entering the lab at the end of the hall, I settled down on the second computer of the first row, and stayed there for the next four years.

Seriously – during every finals period of every semester, I spent at least one day there studying. And always at the same computer, of course.

7th Floor Lab Remains
Remnants of the once-mighty lab.

The lab was a cornerstone of my life over the past four years. It was a place that was always available when I needed to focus, and one that is attached to so many memories as a student, both good and bad.

The 7th floor lab was a place that I discovered when my academic career was just beginning, and one I relied on throughout, so I guess it is only fitting that it was finally shut down during my last semester at Simon Fraser University. ∎

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Derek Woo

Like many other recent post-secondary graduates, I am still trying to figure out what the heck to do with this business degree. All I know is that I love taking in the world around me and putting the my feelings into words. Life is crazy, and there's always a story to tell.


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