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Charles Baillairgé

Charles Baillairgé: Architect and Engineer

Christina Cameron
Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 236
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  • Book Info
    Charles Baillairgé
    Book Description:

    During his career as an architect, he designed major public buildings such as the Quebec Music Hall, Laval University, Sainte-Marie de Beauce church, and Dufferin Terrace, and was supervising architect for the first Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. He was responsible for introducing Gothic and Greek Revival styles to Quebec city and fostered the use of contemporary materials in residential and commercial structures.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6155-7
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-xxiv)

    This biography of charles baillairgé (1826–1906) is the study of an architect’s life in Quebec City in the nineteenth century. The focus is architecture, but Baillairgé’s training in the related fields of land surveying and civil engineering means that these disciplines occasionally find their way into this account of his professional activities. There has been no attempt to weave the threads of his private life into this biography, beyond the factual compilation of genealogies that trace the history of the Baillairgé dynasty from the arrival in Quebec of the patriarch Jean Baillairgé in 1741 down to Charles Baillairgé’s two...

  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxv-xxviii)
  7. Plates
    (pp. xxix-2)
  8. 1 The Making of an Architect, Engineer, and Surveyor
    (pp. 3-12)

    Second son in an artistic and culturally diverse family, Charles Baillairgé was born in Quebec City at a time of political and social upheaval. His innate curiosity about technical and mechanical subjects manifested itself early in his life and blossomed under the tutelage of his father’s cousin, Thomas Baillairgé, at that time Quebec’s best native architect and sculptor. At the age of seventeen, Charles abandoned his formal education at the Seminary of Quebec, impatient to get on with his chosen profession. With the successful completion of two apprenticeships with Thomas Baillairgé – one in architecture, the other in surveying –...

  9. 2 Baillairgé the Professional Man
    (pp. 13-18)

    On becoming an architect in 1846, Charles Baillairgé immediately took steps to consolidate and expand his knowledge in the disciplines of architecture, surveying, and civil engineering by setting up his own library and by acquainting himself firsthand with the work of other architects, both at home and abroad. In his own practice he discarded the traditional artisan—“architect” role that Thomas Baillairgé and his forefathers had followed; instead, Charles adopted the role of the architect as a professional man.

    From the outset of his career, Baillairgé imposed his perception of the professional architect as creator of plans and specifications, liaison...

  10. 3 First Commissions: Experiments in Neoclassicism and the Gothic Revival
    (pp. 19-38)

    In 1847 charles baillairgé began his own practice with the help of Thomas Baillairgé, the Roman Catholic clergy, and French-Canadian merchants. The buildings from this initial period — mainly religious structures, large retail stores, and private residences — reveal Charles’s debt to the neoclassical training of Thomas Baillairgé. But they also demonstrate Charles’s experimental approach to architectural design through the use of the Gothic Revival style for the Beauport church and the chapel of the Soeurs de la Charité, and the daring scale and spatial organization of dry goods stores for the DeBlois heirs and the merchant Louis Bilodeau. By...

  11. 4 Discovering Greek Revival: Quebec Music Hall
    (pp. 39-58)

    The quebec music hall era witnessed a significant evolution in Baillairgé’s work, highlighted by his discovery of the Greek Revival style, popular at that time in Britain and the United States. His major projects, including the City Hall proposal, the Music Hall, the DeFoy store, and residential commissions such as the Têtu, Légaré, and Dorion houses and the manoir de Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies, featured the smooth wall surfaces and decorative vocabulary associated with the Greek Revival style, specifically as it was represented in the pattern books of New York architect Minard Lafever. Although his projects during these years continued to adhere to...

  12. 5 Innovations in Construction Technology: Laval University Buildings
    (pp. 59-68)

    The establishment of laval university could not have happened at a more propitious moment for Charles Baillairgé, who by that time had acquired broad experience in a variety of building projects and had justly earned his reputation as a competent and creative architect. The challenges that such an important project presented to the architect drew his attention away from further experimentation in architectural style and led to an exploration of new construction technologies, particularly the use of cast and wrought iron. This evolution in his career raises the complex issue — common in the nineteenth century — of whether his...

  13. 6 Religious Commissions: Sainte–Marie de Beauce
    (pp. 69-74)

    The roman catholic clergy had been Baillairgé’s first an most reliable client. But though in the latter part of the 1850s Baillairgé created some outstanding religious works including the church at Sainte-Marie de Beauce and the ornamental fence in front of Notre-Damee de Québec, this era marked a significant loss of patronage from the Roman Catholic establishment and a serious deterioration in Baillairgé’s relationship with the clergy at both the diocesan and parish levels. What led to this antagonism is not certain; Baillairgé undoubtedly fueled the debate by his own unorthodox designs, by his irreverent attitude to church authorities, and...

  14. 7 First Mishaps: Department of Public Works
    (pp. 75-81)

    Over the years charles baillairgé’s dealings with the Department of Public Works fluctuated between intense satisfaction and keen disappointment. During the 1850s he attempted to prepare the ground work for his eventual appointment as chief architect. Despite his success in penetrating the charmed circle of government commissions by winning two relatively minor contracts for the Parliament House fence and the Marine Hospital bathroom wing, his relationship with the Department of Public Works was rife with misunderstanding and bitter hostility. His independent and assertive behaviour, following his unsuccessful bid for the Quebec Customs House, threatened to cause a permanent rupture with...

  15. 8 Parliament Buildings Competition and the Quebec Jail
    (pp. 82-93)

    By 1858 the laval university buildings were completed and Baillairgé was faced with a dearth of contracts. Building activity in Quebec had slowly ground to a halt as the city, like other hopeful municipalities, awaited the final decision on the location of a permanent seat of government for the United Province of Canada. Faced with a dwindling number of projects from the religious and private sectors, Baillairgé was in a sense forced to renew his pursuit of government projects, in spite of his previous unhappy experiences with the Department of Public Works. Following new overtures to politicians and departmental officials...

  16. 9 Success, Controversy, and Failure: Ottawa Parliament Buildings
    (pp. 94-109)

    When baillairgé was called to ottawa in April 1863, he encountered firsthand the difficulties of controlling the country’s largest construction project within the chaotic political and administrative framework of the Department of Public Works. To his detriment, he concentrated on the technical issues and ignored the political reverberations of the scandals and controversies then raging over the fiasco.

    In 1863 construction on the Parliament and Departmental Buildings had been in abeyance for over a year while a Commission of Inquiry investigated the state of the works and sorted out the claims of the architects and contractors. In order to complete...

  17. 10 Quebec City Engineer
    (pp. 110-129)

    On his return from ottawa, baillairgé briefly attempted to rebuild his private practice until he entered the municipal service in October 1866. Although he did not intend to stay, he in fact remained with the city for the rest of his professional career until he was forced to retire in 1898 at the age of seventy-two. He found the daily routine unchallenging, but a number of special projects that the city undertook sparked his imagination and provided him with occasional opportunities to design important structures: market halls, the Dufferin Improvements, and iron staircases. From time to time he supplemented his...

  18. 11 Baillairgé the Educator
    (pp. 130-138)

    During the years that Baillairgé worked as city engineer, he actively promoted the dissemination of scientific and technical knowledge through his own lectures, publications, and inventions. It was his significant contribution in this sphere, rather than his production as city engineer, that won him local, national, and even international recognition in the form of medals, diplomas, titles, and enhanced social standing.

    His interest in communicating technical information can be traced to the beginning of his career when, immediately upon completion of his own training, he began to accept apprentices in architecture, civil engineering, and surveying. He did not limit himself...

  19. 12 Professional Standards
    (pp. 139-145)

    At the beginning of his career Baillairgé had trained as an architect, civil engineer, and land surveyor through traditional apprenticeships with an established master, Thomas Baillairgé. At that time this was the only way to enter such professions. When poorly trained or unscrupulous architects and engineers flooded the market during the boom period in the second half of the nineteenth century, pressure mounted for the establishment of professional standards and licences. Baillairgé played an important role in the formation of professional associations in the three disciplines in which he had practised.

    With his interest in education, he was naturally inclined...

  20. Conclusion
    (pp. 146-152)

    Member of the fourth generation of an exceptional cultural dynasty in Canada, Charles Baillairgé enjoyed a long career which spanned almost sixty years. His accomplishments in his chosen field of architecture and engineering can be measured in terms of his actual practice as well as his contribution as a writer and theoretician. He created a corpus of work that few of his contemporaries could have matched either in scope or sheer volume. By the end of his life, recognition of his achievements had extended far beyond his native Quebec City to national and even international spheres. In this sense Baillairgé,...

  21. Appendix 1: Summary Catalogue of Architectural Works by Charles Baillairgé
    (pp. 153-156)
  22. Appendix 2: Genealogy of Charles Baillairgé
    (pp. 157-160)
  23. Appendix 3: Bibliography of Primary Source Material
    (pp. 161-170)
  24. Notes
    (pp. 171-194)
  25. Index
    (pp. 195-201)