The historical capital of aluminum smelting, Arvida, is a company town founded by Alcoa. Prized image of the company and love child of the multinational’s president, Arthur Vining Davis, from which it takes its name (Ar-Vi-Da), the aluminum-smelting town received sustained attention either for its design, planning or transmission, over almost a century by the Aluminum Company of Canada, renamed Alcan on the eve of WWII and now integrated to Rio Tinto Alcan. Internationally acclaimed since the 1930’s for its architectural, urban and scenic features, Arvida is both first and last: the first to gather such scale of urban planning knowledge; the last, since its development was an all-time high never to be matched.
Masterpiece of human creative genius for the urban planning, architecture and industrial infrastructures that had a decisive impact in the history of the 20th Century, Arvida is the result of decades of worldwide research on industrial housing, new cities and planned industrial towns. Throughout the history of industrialization that left its mark on the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries, Arvida is the culmination of socio-industrial utopia, bearing an outstanding testimony for the “aluminum civilization”, innovating, democratic and egalitarian, borrowing the Saguenay region its conditions of possibilities and cultural specificity altogether. Outstanding example of the use of natural resources, more specifically the hydroelectricity, that made modern Québec part of the “American borders”, Arvida also demonstrates the early urban and architectural multicultural cohabitation resulting from international labour mobility. Its urban and architectural features are maintained in excellent condition thanks to protection and management measures recognized by several organizations and levels of government.
The distinctive features of a model city appear while visiting Arvida and the local population:
- The neo-vernacular architecture created through a blending of local traditions and western urbanism practices, reinventing the historical landscape and the French Canadian way of life.
- The architectural variety of homes meant to benefit the development of the families: over 100 models of houses were designed to allow workers to become homeowners regardless of their social status.
- The state-of-the-art industrial facilities broke the world record of production thanks to the unparalleled natural potential of the region.
- The innovative construction site, characterized by rational planning and work conditions were inspired by North American practices to bring to life “the City built in 135 days”.
- The scale of urban planning, elaborated from a unique conceptual and graphical design, witness of the practices maturity as well as the utopian value of a model city, meant to create an environment free of social or racial segregation.