Why Is the Architecture of Old Québec So Distinctive?

Old Québec

Due to its distinctive aesthetic, Old Québec has become somewhat legendary. However, the New France design itself can be challenging to define. Although the city’s meandering, tiny alleyways frequently give off a distinctly European vibe, the buildings themselves represent the various historical eras that have shaped the city’s development and given rise to a wide variety of architectural styles. Here are the key factors that contribute to Old Québec’s distinctiveness as a North American treasure. They are illustrated by just a few of the city’s landmarks.

The French influence on New France’s history and architecture

Many religious organisations had convents and schools constructed in the French style in Québec City, which served as New France’s capital. L’aile de la Procure, a structure constructed between 1678 and 1681 for the seminary priests of Québec City, is an obvious example of the French influence on local architecture. Take note of the building’s roughcast walls, pavilion at the far end, and bell turret on top.

You can see how the French architecture was modified to fit Québec’s harsh climate—and to meet with a new legislation meant to reduce the number of home fires—at Maison Simon-Touchet, which is located just down the street from the Séminaire. The broad chimney stack, sheet metal roofing, and wood panelling are all characteristics of a Canadian townhouse from the era. It was constructed between 1747 and 1768.

The Influence of Britain

One of the earliest public structures completed by the British in Québec and a key contributor to the introduction of the English Neoclassical style to the colonial capital was the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, which was constructed between 1800 and 1804 for the new Anglican diocese of Québec. The cathedral is modelled after ancient architecture, as implied by its name; take note of the usage of columns, pilasters, and pediments.

The Influence of Romanticism

We can thank the Romantic movement’s emergence in the 19th century for some of Old Québec’s European allure. Two of the city’s most recognizable buildings, the Saint-Louis Gate and Château Frontenac, were influenced by the Romantic interest with historical architectural motifs. Indeed, in order to maintain and adorn the only fortified city north of Mexico and highlight the historically significant and scenic features of Old Québec, Governor General Lord Dufferin had suggested that new gates be constructed in a neo-medieval design. Saint-Louis Gate, which was constructed in 1878, is a result of this Romantic inspiration. So too is Château Frontenac, whose building, which began in 1892, symbolised the beginning of Old Québec’s transition towards tourism.

The Impact of Art Deco

Modern architectural trends have also influenced Old Québec. Pure Art Deco is evident in the Price Building‘s crisp lines, stylized ornamentation, and bas relief (1929–1931 construction). The penthouse suite of the building, which was rebuilt in 2003, now serves as the Premier of Québec’s official residence, lending it a modest role in Québec’s history as a capital city dating back to the 17th century.

UNESCO World Heritage

In 1963, the Québec government designated the Old Québec as a historic district in order to protect its architectural legacy. In 1985, UNESCO seconded the proposal by included the neighbourhood on its list of World Heritage properties.

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(1) Comment

  1. Battle of the Plains of Abraham – Tour to USA

    […] In the years that followed, a Protestant, English community moved there, leaving a lasting impression on Québec. The city took part in the political, economic, and cultural affairs of the British empire. It gradually adopted a British parliamentary government, and in the 19th century, its lumber industry prospered thanks to British trade winds. Québec was dramatically impacted by the arrival of a new language, a new faith, and new ways of doing things, especially in terms of its architecture. In fact, the city’s physical environment is exceptional in the Americas due to the coexistence of English and French architectural traditions. […]

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