Arvida: the ambition to be a world heritage of UNESCO

Photo: Renaud Philippe The Duty
In 2010, an ambitious program was launched to encourage owners to renovate their house with the materials of the time.

After the Old-Quebec, Percé and the Mont-Royal, the industrial city of Arvida will be added to the prestigious list of the twelve heritage sites recognized in Quebec. On the eve of a consultation is key on the project, zoom in on a heritage site is also overlooked that particular.


“When are we going to be ready, it’s going to be a point of interest extremely important to the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean. It will become a tourist attraction, ” says councilman Carl Dufour.


It has been nearly ten years since mr. Dufour argues for the recognition of the old site of the Aluminium Company of Canada (Alcoa). It has never been so close to the goal.


On the 12th of July last, the minister Luc Fortin mandated the Board of the cultural heritage of Québec (CPCQ) to hold a consultation in order to make a heritage site official (the equivalent of the old historic districts).


“The site of the ancient city of Arvida is a marker of québécois identity that it is important to protect and preserve,” he said then.


After you have surveyed the people on the Web, the CPCQ will be at Arvida on Thursday to present his project of protection of the site and receive the comments of the residents. The boundaries set are appropriate ? Think the owners of the responsibilities that come with such a recognition ? And this is only the beginning. This step was taken, one wants to recognize Arvida by none other than UNESCO.


On the spot, the small white houses line the quiet streets with the big chimneys of the plant, Rio Tinto. At first glance, the site of Arvida mainly has the air of a pretty suburban neat and well-maintained. Why do we all of a flat ?


First, for the story of its construction. In 1926, the company erected not less than 270 homes in 135 days. For the sake of efficiency, the trains unload the materials along the land, where will be built the streets.


But still ! The company built more than 100 separate models for the 2000 homes that must have the city. Never seen that before. “Arvida, it is a little to the history of town planning what mona lisa is to art history “, ahead of the holder of the Canada research Chair in urban heritage of UQAM, Lucie K. Morisset.


Designers, she says, have used “all means of urban planning” to design an industrial town with a unique focus on equality and quality of life. An approach to avant-garde to the 1920s… Until then, the cities of companies had tended to develop the accommodation to ” control the workers “.

Photo: Courtesy Lucie K. Morisset
In 1926, no fewer than 270 houses were built in 135 days, the train leaving the materials at the edge of the land.

However those of Arvida were going to be owners. “It foreshadows the company that will develop after 1945,” continues Ms. Morisset. It is both a project of urban, social and industrial, to develop an egalitarian society based on the ownership of the house. “


Designers create models of the canadian home and commute some architectural motifs, so that one can distinguish between them. “Not only is each Arvidien could become the owner, but to recognize its home among the others. “Really, nothing seems left to chance in this city whose name comes from the first letters of the first name and the name of the company founder, Arthur Vining Davis (Ar-Vi-Da).


The company is a global giant who, in 1928, control of not less than 90 % of aluminum production in the world. During the Second world War, it provides two-thirds of the aluminum used in the design of the aviation of the Allies.


Recent development


Even today, the population arvidienne has a strong sense of belonging and pride. When Carl Dufour began going door-to-door to test the idea of making it a protected site, the reactions were amazing. “I explained to people that I wanted to base my campaign on the protection of Arvida and people were saying to me, “But it is already to UNESCO !” “


On site, it still speaks with anger of the forced merger. Not that the city of Saguenay, in 2001, but the 1975 one with Kénogami ! After that, says Ms. Morisset, you literally wanted to “erase” the name of Arvida.


Therefore, it was not until the late 1990s before the city starts to pay attention to the peculiarities of the site, ” explains Roger Lavoie, responsible for the architectural heritage in the city of Saguenay.


In 2010, she created an ambitious grant program encouraging residents to renovate houses in the manner of the time. The aluminum roofs are 75% funded ; the exterior coverings of wood to 100 %. Finished the vinyl !


It has also installed signs retro at the entrances to the city. Replicas are identical to what we saw during the 1950s. In the protected area, the names of streets are on signs at the former.


But there is still a lot of work to do to accommodate the tourists. For the time being, Arvida has no museum or interpretation centre to enjoy its history. “It is not ready,” agreed Carl Dufour, who dream of the day when Arvida will be to the region what the Old-Quebec is the capital.


All the more that the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean does not have a historic site as such for cruise ship passengers disembarking, however in large numbers in The Bay. Lucie K. Morisset adds that it will be necessary to develop interactive tools and ” we no longer heritage as in the 1960s.”


To those who are surprised that we want to carry forward the cause of Arvida up to the UNESCO, she noted that several “cities of companies” listed there already, as Rjukan-Notodden Norway or even the mining Basin of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France.


“This is what the Twentieth century has bequeathed to us. There is a time, we looked at it in Brasilia and found it horrible. In the same way that, after the construction of the Château Frontenac, in 1892, we talked about it for years as the “wart of Old Quebec”. “

The 12 heritage sites declared Quebec

– Archipel-de-Mingan
– Beauport
– Bois-de-Saragay
– Charlesbourg
– Island of Orleans
– The Prairie
– Montreal
– Mont-Royal
– Pierced
– Sillery, qc
– Three-Rivers
– Old Quebec City

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