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 leave the city.
National Archives of Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, P90399). Photo by P. Carpentier
Laval University, Old Quebec.
1) Modern campus
National Archives of Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P314-50-1D). Photo by G. Driscoll
Monsignor Maurice Roy and other dignitaries at the construction site of the university residence.
In 1925, the university began to move out of Old Quebec, notably with the construction of a science pavilion in Sainte-Foy. If at the beginning the Université Laval campus was divided between Old Quebec and Sainte-Foy, the university management dreamed of building an extensive campus in the suburbs of Quebec City, like American campuses.
Between 1942 and 1955, Laval University bought several agricultural and forest plots in the towns of Sainte-Foy and Sillery. In particular, nearly $900,000 will be spent on the purchase of an area of 2.5 km2. It was Ernest Lemieux, a university professor, who proposed a project to build a modern university residence, which was accepted. Eager to learn from the good and bad deeds of other universities, several university administration dignitaries are visiting American and European campuses to learn from them.
National Archives of Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P315-50-4D). Photo by G. Driscoll
Architects Fiset et Royer working on plans for a university residence.
2) Édouard Fiset and his vision
National Archives of Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P307-50-1UC). Photo by 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. Therefore, the construction of 41 buildings located in four different sectors, which resemble the cross from the coat of arms of Université Laval, is planned. French gardens inspired by Versailles and the Champs-Élysées are planned. The plan is also to build underground galleries that will stretch for several kilometers. This vast campus is designed for almost 15,000 students. In 1952, when it was still under construction, almost 4,000 students attended the university.
National Archives of Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P314-50-6UC). Photo by G. Driscoll
Monsignor Maurice Roy and other dignitaries at the construction site of the university residence, rue de la Terrasse.
In 1950, the first works began. The first pavilion of the Faculty of Surveying and Forestry Engineering was built very quickly.
National Archives of Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P306-50UC). Photo by G. Driscoll
A view of the Walloon road bordering the campus of the new university residence.
For access to the new campus and to facilitate mobility, work is underway on four main roads. Towards the west, the construction of the two-lane Vallon road is planned. The extension of rue Saint-Cyrille to the north (now boulevard René-Lévesque) is also planned. Avenue du Grand Séminaire and Avenue de la Terrasse will form the germinal layout of the campus road. These four roads will be built with a total length of 6.5 km.
National Archives of Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P303-50-1UC). Photo by G. Driscoll
Extension of rue Saint-Cyrille.
Despite the expansion of public roads, the administration of Université Laval wanted to preserve private lanes. Thus, the plan envisages avenues lined with trees and well-lit with electricity conducted in tunnels leading under the campus. The earth excavated during the construction of these roads will be used to backfill the surrounding land.
National Archives of Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P291-50-3D). Photo by G. Driscoll
A view of the newly built sidewalk along Rue de la Médecine.
4) Excavation and preparation
National Archives of Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P302-50UC). Photo by G. Driscoll
Part of the campus of the university city.
The site, launched in 1950, employs almost 325 workers. A material camp is built on the site of the future campus. This enables the storage of materials and their transformation on the construction site.
National Archives of Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P298-50-7D). Photo by G. Driscoll
To prepare the land for the construction site, we proceed to cleaning, leveling and blasting the selected plot. Subsequently, the construction of underground tunnels begins. Deep trenches are dug almost 3 m deep and 4.5 m wide.
National Archives of Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P311-50-6D). Photo by G. Driscoll
Excavation with tractors and a mechanical shovel.
The underground galleries will make it possible to carry water, electricity and telephone through the campus. The selection of the underground gallery is also important. These avoid visual pollution of the campus by hiding poles and electric wires. What’s more, it protects various utilities (electricity and telephone) from the weather.
National Archives of Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P305-50-2D). Photo by G. Driscoll
5) Reinforced concrete and formwork
National Archives of Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P297-50-4D). Photo by G. Driscoll
Concreting the floor of the galleries.
While the trenches for the future underground tunnels are already dug, workers are building the concrete formwork and double steel reinforcement of the tunnels. Concrete is prepared at the work site itself.
National Archives of Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P289-50-2D). Photo by G. Driscoll
Workers working on strengthening the underground tunnel.
During the summer of 1950, no less than 2,000 m of galleries were built and concreted. 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 puzolite and 1,300 tons of reinforcing steel.
National Archives of Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P304-50-2D). Photo by G. Driscoll
When completed, these tunnels should be able to carry up to 90,000 pounds of cargo. To insulate these under construction tunnels from the cold and to absorb condensation, one and a half inch thick cork panels are placed in the upper part of the tunnels.
So in 1950, workers installed 150,000 square feet of cork in the tunnels of the new campus.
National Archives of Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P297-50-14D). Photo by G. Driscoll
Machines for concreting underground tunnels.
National Archives of Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P289-50-1UC). Photo by G. Driscoll
Electricians who lay pipes for lighting galleries and streets.
The underground galleries are necessary to bring public services (telephone, water, electricity and sewage) to the new pavilions that will be built later. In addition, the distribution network that the tunnels offer makes it possible to centralize the management of public services.
National Archives of Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P301-50-6D). Photo by G. Driscoll
Workers who install water pipes.
The center strip of the tunnel allows quick access to distribution and pipes in the event of a rupture. On the side walls of the tunnels, engineers place the cables responsible for the transmission of electricity and telephone to the new buildings.
They are installing electric cables on the wall of the ceiling, which are in charge of powering the lighting of the campus streets.
The new underground passages also enable the supply of drinking water to the university campus. Water pipes are located inside the tunnels. These water pipes are connected to the pipes of the municipality of Sillery.
National Archives of Quebec (E6, S7, SS1, D2591, P296-50UC). Photo by G. Driscoll
Workers working in an underground gallery.
By 1950, these new pipes were expected to be able to deliver up to 1,800,000 gallons of water per day to the campus. Sillery also allowed the campus sewer to be connected to its already existing system.
In the summer of 1950, the construction of the university residence begins. This titanic construction site directed enormous resources and hundreds of employees. Thanks to these great works, the dream of a university town on the Sainte-Foy plateau became a reality, paving the way for the construction of new pavilions and the training of thousands of students.
Text by Marc-André Dénommée, Archivist of the Library and National Archives of Quebec
- “Laval, the city is being built.” [En ligne].
- Leclerc, R. (2013). The Laval University campus: a site of modernization for a Catholic university institution and Quebec. Studies in Religious History, 79(2), 41–54. https://doi.org/10.7202/1018593ar