Track 6: INTEGRATING OLD AND NEW – BUILDINGS, DISTRICTS, and LANDSCAPES / Volet 6: Intégrer l’ancien et le nouveau – Immeubles, quartiers et paysages

Making Heritage: Maison Alcan, Montreal

Friday, October 13
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM

From opening day in 1983, Maison Alcan, the former world headquarters of the Aluminium Company of Canada was hailed as a new way forward for the integration of historic buildings into new urban environments. In February 2017, the entire complex was classified by the Quebec Ministry of Culture. A translation of the citation reads in part: “Composed of many restored historic buildings, it is an exemplary work of architectural integration… which bears witness to the evolution of architecture in Montreal and Quebec, since the end of the 19th c. It is an important landmark in the history of conservation of the built environment in Quebec and Canada.”
Maison Alcan has been sold to a private company. Future modifications to accommodate different uses and tenants will have to be planned within the constraints imposed by its new status. The relative youth of the complex provokes a number of intriguing questions. How does one manage the recent past? Do late 20th c. systems and technologies deserve conservation consideration? If the original architects are still living, should they be consulted in the decision-making process? Do they have the same standing as any other designers, or are they the ultimate oracles? How do the Ministry reviewers ascribe heritage value and then enforce its continuity when the original designer testifies that the design was a compromise or a failed solution? What is the nature of the dialogue amongst all of the stakeholders in determining appropriate interventions?
Julia Gersovitz is a Canadian conservation architect and recipient of the 2015 National Trust of Canada Gabrielle Leger Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Heritage Conservation. From 1980-83, she was in charge of the design and conservation of the historic buildings which form a major part of the Alcan complex. Both as a practising architect, chairman of a municipal reviewing committee and as the original designer of a newly minted historic monument, she has been confronted by the philosophical questions associated with managing the recent past. Using two case studies including Maison Alcan, this presentation will raise philosophical questions and provide potential ways forward. Reference will be made to the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada and to the Secretary of the Interior’s Guidelines for Rehabilitation.

Learning Objectives:


Director, Senior Architect
EVOQ Architecture Inc.

Julia Gersovitz is a conservation architect, architectural historian, academic and heritage activist. A founding partner in EVOQ Architecture (FGMDA), she has directed award-winning projects across Canada, through offices in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. Her first conservation project has recently been ‘classified’ by the Quebec government.
A graduate of the McGill School of Architecture and the Columbia Historic Preservation Program, and a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and APT International, she is a recipient of the Harley J. McKee Award and the Gabrielle Léger Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Heritage Conservation. She is also a member of CAHP.


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Stephen Robinson, MA, CAHP

Senior Heritage Planner
City of Guelph

Stephen Robinson holds an MA in Art & Architectural History (Concordia University), a Certificate in Heritage Planning (University of Waterloo) and is a CAHP professional member with many years of experience as a heritage planner and consultant in the public and private realms. Stephen has been the Senior Heritage Planner at the City of Guelph since 2009 providing research, policy and technical advice relating to the conservation of cultural heritage resources in the development application process. Stephen maintains the City of Guelph’s Municipal Register of Cultural Heritage Properties, manages the heritage review and heritage permit application processes and is the staff liaison to Heritage Guelph the City’s municipal heritage committee. Before settling in Guelph, Stephen was the Cultural Heritage Coordinator at the City of Vaughan and a co-author of the City of Brantford’s Heritage Inventory.


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Making Heritage: Maison Alcan, Montreal

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