Arvida, the built landscape

Anyone visiting Arvida holds a vivid memory of its lush vegetation, picturesque features and seemingly sinuous streets, quite different from those of standard cities. The distinctive landscape is part of a very comprehensive plan that its designers, Brainerd and Skougor, endowed with unique refinement, while introducing the most modern ideals; in fact, Arvida owes its special character to the combination of such design and the deeply sculpted land of the Saguenay area, which urban layouts define and circumvent. Such landscape of a city rooted in the land, as if it had always been there, couldn’t have developed in that manner somewhere else.

One of Arvida’s outstanding features is to be the work of famous designers, who built an environment fostering a sense of belonging. In the same way the Saguenay Inn represented Arvida around the world, the Arvida homes reinvented the typical habitat of French Canada by using specific features in new settings, like dormers windows, pitched roofs and porches. As of 1926, the Arvida neo-vernacular style is confirmed. Homes in Arvida, apart from being built on concrete foundations, a symbol of permanence, and all being single-family houses except for one, are quite varied and can be acquired by their tenants: the company had set up a purchase-leasing program adapted to buyers’ financial capacity, allowing workers to access home ownership.

The following construction stages will bring the residential park of Arvida to over 2,000 units, remembering the first one’s principles of rationalization, optimizing construction speed while diversifying house styles from their architectural components. Renowned designers were put to task, such as Ernest Isbel Barott, Léonce Desgagné, Harold Lea Fetherstonhaugh, Alexander Tilloch Galt Durnford and Henry Wiggs. To ensure the municipality a growing range of action, Alcan implements, in 1942, a new Planning Committee, chaired by none other than Frederick Gage Todd, to protect the city’s landscape and monuments, such as its unique aluminum bridge.

From the beginning, Arvida was entirely designed as an urban ensemble, with residential areas, neighbouring institutional and commercial centers, as well as a truly metropolitan city center, reflecting a monumental feature of the greatest western capitals: straight wide streets marking the landscape, outlined by four large industrial and civil ensembles, emblematic of the industrial town in the making. This is also the only project throughout Arvida that has not yet been completed: the hazards of the Great Depression, the expansion of functionalist planning, less enthusiastic about magnificence, have temporarily interrupted its completion. Nowadays, during the post-industrial age, the Arvida downtown rekindles a living environment status the landscape envisioned by Brainerd and Skougor is most ready to welcome.

  Official City of Saguenay website