Relive the ambitious construction of the Université Laval campus in 18 archival photos


Université Laval was founded in 1852. Its main mission is to provide quality education to French-speakers in Quebec. Theology, medicine, law and art are taught there. In the first half of the XXe century, Université Laval is diversifying its teaching offer and increasing its research activities. This is followed by an increase in the student population. The Seminary in Old Quebec is overcrowded and no longer sufficient. Then you have to get out of town.


Laval University, Old Quebec.

National Archives in Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, P90399). Photo P. Carpentier

Laval University, Old Quebec.

1) A modern campus


Monsignor Maurice Roy and other dignitaries on the construction site of the university residence.

National Archives in Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P314-50-1D). Photo G. Driscoll

Monsignor Maurice Roy and other dignitaries on the construction site of the university residence.

In 1925, the University began to move out of Old Quebec, notably by building the science pavilion in Sainte-Foy. If, at the start, the Université Laval campus was divided between Old Quebec and Sainte-Foy, the university administration dreamed of building a vast campus in the suburbs of Quebec City, like American campuses.

Between 1942 and 1955, Laval University bought several agricultural and forest lands in the towns of Sainte-Foy and Sillery. In particular, nearly $900,000 will be spent to purchase an area of ​​2.5 km2. It was Ernest Lemieux, a professor at the University, who proposed the project to build a modern university residence, which was adopted. Anxious to learn from the good and bad deeds of other universities, several dignitaries from the university administration visit American and European campuses in order to learn from them.


Fiset et Royer architects working on the plans for the university residence.

National Archives in Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P315-50-4D). Photo G. Driscoll

Fiset et Royer architects working on the plans for the university residence.

2) Édouard Fiset and his vision


Facade of the Faculty of Surveying and Forestry Engineering.

National Archives in Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P307-50-1UC). Photo G. Driscoll

Facade of the Faculty of Surveying and Forestry Engineering.

The architect Édouard Fiset, who later became the chief architect of Expo 67, was chosen to draw up the master plan for the Sainte-Foy university campus.

The project is ambitious. The construction of 41 buildings is thus planned, located in four distinct sectors that recall the cross of the coat of arms of Université Laval. French gardens inspired by Versailles and the Champs-Élysées are planned. There are also plans to build underground galleries that will stretch over several kilometres. This vast campus is designed to accommodate nearly 15,000 students. In 1952, while it was still under construction, almost 4,000 students were already attending the university.


Monsignor Maurice Roy and other dignitaries on the construction site of the university residence, rue de la Terrasse.

National Archives in Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P314-50-6UC). Photo G. Driscoll

Monsignor Maurice Roy and other dignitaries on the construction site of the university residence, rue de la Terrasse.

It was in 1950 that the first works began. Very quickly, a first pavilion was built, that of the Faculty of Surveying and Forestry Engineering.

3) Avenues


View of the Vallon road bordering the site of the new university residence.

National Archives in Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P306-50UC). Photo G. Driscoll

View of the Vallon road bordering the site of the new university residence.

To access the new campus and to facilitate mobility, work is being carried out on four major roads. To the west, the construction of the two-lane Vallon road is planned. There are also plans to extend rue Saint-Cyrille to the north (now boulevard René-Lévesque). Avenue du Grand Séminaire and Avenue de la Terrasse will form the embryonic road layout of the campus. These four roads will be built for a total of 6.5 km.


Extension of rue Saint-Cyrille.

National Archives in Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P303-50-1UC). Photo G. Driscoll

Extension of rue Saint-Cyrille.

Despite the extension of public roads, the administration of Université Laval wanted to keep its traffic lanes private. The plan thus provides for avenues lined with trees and well lit by means of the electricity carried in the tunnels running under the campus. The earth extracted during the construction of these avenues will be used to backfill the surrounding land.


View of a newly constructed sidewalk along Rue de la Médecine.

National Archives in Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P291-50-3D). Photo G. Driscoll

View of a newly constructed sidewalk along Rue de la Médecine.

4) Excavation and preparation


Part of the site of the university city.

National Archives in Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P302-50UC). Photo G. Driscoll

Part of the site of the university city.

The site launched in 1950 employs nearly 325 workers. A materials camp is erected on the site of the future campus. The latter allows the storage of materials and their transformation on the construction site.


Materials camp.

National Archives in Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P298-50-7D). Photo G. Driscoll

Materials camp.

To prepare the ground for the construction site, we proceed with the clearing, leveling and blasting of the chosen land. Subsequently, the construction of the underground tunnels begins. Deep trenches are dug almost 3 m deep and 4.5 m wide.


Excavation by tractors and mechanical shovel.

National Archives in Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P311-50-6D). Photo G. Driscoll

Excavation by tractors and mechanical shovel.

The underground galleries will make it possible to carry water, electricity and the telephone through the campus. The choice of the underground gallery is not insignificant. The latter avoid the visual pollution of the campus by hiding the poles and the electrical wires. What’s more, it protects the various public services (electricity and telephone) from the weather.


Rock blasting.

National Archives in Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P305-50-2D). Photo G. Driscoll

Rock blasting.

5) Reinforced concrete and formwork


Concreting of the floor of the galleries.

National Archives in Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P297-50-4D). Photo G. Driscoll

Concreting of the floor of the galleries.

While the trenches of the future underground galleries are already dug, the workers are building the formwork to contain the concrete and the double steel mesh reinforcement of the tunnels. The concrete is prepared on the work site itself.


Workers working on the reinforcement of an underground gallery.

National Archives in Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P289-50-2D). Photo G. Driscoll

Workers working on the reinforcement of an underground gallery.

During the summer of 1950, no less than 2000 m of galleries were built and concreted. To do this, the workers used 50,000 bags of cement, 8,600 tons of stone, 5,000 tons of sand, 40 tons of calcium chloride, 50,000 pounds of pozzolite and 1,300 tons of reinforcing steel.


Installation of cork.

National Archives in Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P304-50-2D). Photo G. Driscoll

Installation of cork.

When completed, these tunnels should be able to support up to 90,000 pounds of load. To insulate these tunnels under construction from the cold and to absorb condensation, one and a half inch thick cork panels are placed in the upper part of the tunnels.

In 1950, the workers therefore installed 150,000 square feet of cork in the tunnels of the new campus.


Machinery concreting an underground gallery.

National Archives in Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P297-50-14D). Photo G. Driscoll

Machinery concreting an underground gallery.

6) Services


Electricians laying conduits for gallery and street lighting.

National Archives in Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P289-50-1UC). Photo G. Driscoll

Electricians laying conduits for gallery and street lighting.

The underground galleries are essential to bring the public services (telephone, water, electricity and sewers) to the new pavilions which will be built later. In addition, the distribution network offered by the tunnels makes it possible to centralize the management of public services.


Workers installing water pipes.

National Archives in Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P301-50-6D). Photo G. Driscoll

Workers installing water pipes.

The central lane of the tunnel allows quick access to wiring and piping in the event of a breakage. On the side walls of the tunnels, the engineers place the cables responsible for transmitting electricity and the telephone to the new buildings.

On the wall of the ceiling, they install the electric cables in charge of supplying the lighting of the avenues of the campus.

The new underground passages also allow the delivery of drinking water to the university campus. The water pipes are located inside the tunnels. These water supply pipes are attached to the pipes of the municipality of Sillery.


Workers working in an underground gallery.

National Archives in Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P296-50UC). Photo G. Driscoll

Workers working in an underground gallery.

By 1950, it was expected that these new pipes would be able to supply up to 1,800,000 liters of water to the campus daily. Sillery also allowed the connection of the campus sewers to its already existing system.

The summer of 1950 marks the beginning of the construction of the university residence. This titanic construction site channeled enormous resources and hundreds of employees. Thanks to these major works, the dream of the university city on the Sainte-Foy plateau has become a reality, paving the way for the construction of new pavilions and the training of thousands of students.

A text by Marc-André Dénommée, archivist, Library and National Archives of Quebec

References

  • “Laval the city is being built”. [En ligne].
  • Leclerc, R. (2013). The campus of Laval University: place of modernization of a Catholic university institution and of Quebec. Studies in Religious History, 79(2), 41–54. https://doi.org/10.7202/1018593ar




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