City of Saguenay for the District of Arvida
2012 Prince of Wales Prize
Arvida was founded as a single-industry town by American millionaire Arthur Vining Davis, president of the Aluminum Company of America (later Rio Tinto Alcan), in 1925 when the aluminum smelter was constructed. Located 240 kilometres north of Quebec City and south of the Saguenay River between Chicoutimi and Jonquière, Arvida is a pre-planned model town whose oldest area, Sainte-Thérèse, was built in just 135 days.
In its heyday, Arvida was the largest aluminum production centre in the Western hemisphere, and workers were brought in from around the world and housed near the smelter to work with the “magic metal of the 20th century.” The scope and character of the original urban plan is evident today in the layout of the streets and arrangement of the built and natural landscapes. The unique and creative planning approach included 140 different models of single-family homes on spacious lots along winding, tree-lined streets, interspersed with residential parks, schools and places of worship that welcomed a range of Alcan employees—from managers and skilled professionals to the unskilled labour force. The innovative housing designs made good use of Quebec’s traditional building styles and wooden construction materials in a pleasing contrast to the linear uniformity of most industrial towns. The region’s familiar bell-cast and mansard roofs and other architectural components were engineered into standardized pre-cut pieces that could be quickly assembled on individual lots.