A breath of fresh air

For Henry Xu Jiarui, the queen’s lawn and tower are the essential Imperial experience

Henry Xu JiaruiWords: Lucy Jolin / Photograph: Hannah Maule-ffinch

Footballs, frisbees and fresh air. You’re pretty much guaranteed to find some combination of all of these on the Queen’s Lawn, but for me it is so much more than just a great place to hang out. Rather, it’s a meeting point for minds, a place where we can relax. And when Imperial students and academics relax together, great things happen.

It can feel daunting, spending all your time in the intensity of the lab. And being outside in the sunshine with the flowers and the trees helps me to relax and de-stress. But in the shadow of Queen’s Tower, the Lawn facilitates the free exchange of ideas and thoughts. It’s cool – unlike the library, which was nicknamed the Imperial Sauna before the new cooling system was installed this year. I used to go outside and take a short walk on the lawn just to cool myself down after a session studying.

When Imperial students and academics relax together, great things happen"

Henry Xu Jiarui

On sunny days, it’s buzzing with activity – you won’t be able to find a seat in the café so the Lawn is full of students. I’ll always remember picking up super-yummy food from the weekly farmers’ market, sitting on one of the long benches, feeling the fresh air and sunshine on my face or just chatting with my friends. Something is always happening, from the farmers’ market to students from ICU Rag bungee jumping near the Tower, or going on ‘expeditions’ up it.

And that’s another reason that the Lawn feels like the heart of the university to me. They demolished the whole Institute in the 1960s, but they left the Tower, so now it’s the oldest building at Imperial – it was built in 1887. You can see it across the whole of London, so it’s a constant reminder of Imperial’s presence. To sit on the Lawn and look at it gives me a real sense of history.

Henry Xu Jiarui is a second year undergraduate, Biological Sciences.