Architectural and Artistic Creativity
Built in 1899 this old shoe factory was turned into an apartment building as part of efforts to revitalize Saint-Roch. Today it is home to artists’ studios and condos, a bridge between the area’s industrial past and its fashionable present. Since the 1990s a number of disaffected and repurposed buildings have come to house a similar mix of old and new.
The biggest factories
From 1870 manufacturing took over from shipbuilding in Saint-Roch, becoming the new engine of the local economy. Vast red brick buildings appeared everywhere, according to the same model used in the United States. This largely practical architecture featured solid steel structures that created huge work areas. These plain buildings often had lots of windows to make the most of natural light.
Starting in the 1960s, the factories of Saint-Roch either closed for good or moved to the new industrial parks on the outskirts of town, leaving behind a number of disaffected buildings. It was a dark time for the neighbourhood.
In the early 1990s, Ville de Québec funded two ambitious architectural recycling projects in Saint-Roch: the transformation of the Dominion Corset Company building and the F.-X. Drolet factory into office buildings. The movement had begun.
In conjunction with the City, private developers invested in repurposing old industrial buildings. Such buildings were perfect for redevelopment, as they had plenty of room inside, most of it undivided. Their high ceilings also made them well suited for lofts and artists’ studios. These projects were carried out in areas of Saint-Roch targeted for revitalization and they attracted artists and young professionals. A number of old buildings were also converted into apartments or condos, such as at 245 rue Christophe-Colomb Est.
The architects repurposing these old factories had their work cut out for them. The buildings had often been abandoned for years, so they had to be restored first, then modernized and converted into residential space. There were also strict heritage considerations to heed. This inspired hybrid plans that mixed and matched modern features with the buildings’ original materials.
In many of these projects, the main façades kept their original look, although windows were often enlarged to let in more light. Architects were careful to put balconies and new stairs on the sides or behind buildings. No attempt was made to conceal such additions; instead they became a feature in themselves through the use of contemporary materials and bright colours.
Inside, materials recalling the buildings’ original purpose were conserved. For instance, freight elevators became passenger elevators, while cast-iron columns gave lofts a very contemporary look. Brick walls and exposed piping were also used as embellishments.