Place Royale in Quebec City : preservation by morphological inaptitude

Santos, Luiza and Dufaux, François; (2022) Place Royale in Quebec City : preservation by morphological inaptitude. In: Annual Conference Proceedings of the XXVIII International Seminar on Urban Form. University of Strathclyde Publishing, Glasgow, pp. 1233-1240. ISBN 9781914241161

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Between two natural barriers, a cliff and a river, Place Royale is the founding site of Quebec City. Once central, the area became gradually more peripheral in the second half of the 19th century. Facing a gradual decline after 1945, Place Royale became, between 1957- 2002, a major historical restoration project intended to commemorate the city's French heritage. The celebration of French-speaking America's cradle led to several architectural interventions' strategies. This included the restoration of late 18th century houses by eliminating later additions, the renovation and repair of damaged components using traditional construction patterns and finally, the reconstruction of historical houses by demolishing 19th century constructions. Why so many historic buildings had survived around Place Royale? The analysis of the neighbourhood's evolution, as well as the architectural restorations, suggest a new paradigm for the preservation; the relative location at the urban scale, and the morphological characteristics, favoured restrained buildings' transformations. Place Royale's morphological structure reached a degree of urban development maturity by the 1820s. The internal fringe space location, the dimensions of the land plots, and the building architectural components hold back later transformations like joining properties and rebuilding larger structures, as observed in other parts of Quebec City historical centre. Place Royale maintained part of its built characteristics by morphological inaptitude. This hypothesis is compared with other sectors of the Quebec City historic centre. This is suggesting that effective heritage preservation until the 1950s was less as a critical choice than a result of morphological constraint exerted at the urban, architectural and construction levels. The organic nature of these components, their uniqueness, favoured a fossilization that contained transformations. This pattern challenges the evolution of the serial components so commons in the urban fabric and architecture of New World cities.