The facade of Église Saint-Vincent-de-Paul seduced me during a recent visit to Quebec city. It floats disembodied on the edge of a precipice, in the elbow of a highway, like a gateway into a foreign land.
Trying to track down the name of the church, I stumbled upon a news story which hit the press just yesterday. The property is currently owned by a hotelier who, last summer, was granted a permit to dismantle and rebuild the facade. The owner had proposed a 300-room hotel on the site, but the mayor threatened to expropriate him if the project did not include housing. Nothing has budged since.
But now, with the ruined church about to face another winter exposed, the culture minister has conceded that the facade need not be conserved. Mayor Lebaume seems to be pressing for demolition, stressing that it is not a heritage building.
“Alors, qu’est-ce qui est mieux? Un projet pas de façade. Pas de projet et une façade.”
What is better, asks the Voir, A project with no façade. Or a façade with no project?
By the way, my little foray into Quebec City urbanism also led me to the Québec Urbain blog that reminds me a bit of Spacing (en français, évidemment). Worth checking out, especially for Francis Vachon’s pro aerial photography.