The citizens of Arvida have been the guardians of the town’s memory and heritage for almost a century. Before and after WWII, Alcan implemented innovative measures to ensure the preservation of Arvida’s landscapes, notably by creating a planning commission to support the municipal administration. At the same time, citizens of the model town, bearers of its identity and pride, took care of most of its preservation. As of the 1920’s, they were able to become house owners and subjected to a number of heritage easements, real urban planning regulations before their time, committing the “owner-citizen” –often plant workers and employees– to take ownership of the beloved landscape, thus making Arvida a true heritage project right from its foundation.
The strong identity the company wanted to create through its contribution to social and cultural life, has never failed, and grew up along with the model town reputation, called “The Washington of the North” in the 1920’s, in reference to its destiny to become one of the great metropolis. The city that was for thirty years aluminum leader of the Western world, that sent its workers and children across the world, trained in schools acclaimed in Canada, has only ever lost its memory for a short time, in the wake of the 1975 municipal merger that took away its territorial control and its name. Nowadays, as the industrial history is also becoming a heritage, Arvida reappears as a cultural legacy through exceptional social and urban planning, its unique habitat in the history of company towns, its industrial infrastructures that marked the course of the 20th Century, but also due to its integrity and authenticity, the work of generations of Arvidians.
Why does Arvida wish to become a UNESCO heritage site? To ensure the widest possible recognition, based on local, regional and national acknowledgement of its contribution to the history of humankind, as well as community life, territories and memories that shape humanity and show the tremendous contribution resulting from the coexistence of earth and mankind.
The great urban planning historian, Pierre Lavedan, described Arvida in 1956 as a “factory town” and “aluminum town”, noticing the “free flowing design”; German planner Werner Hegemann was already prasing the city between the two world wars. Over the years, Arvida was established worldwide as one of the 20th Century cities and industries we still contemplate the heritage today. It is to this universe that Arvida now belongs.