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Professor and graduate students leading tours at the Society of Architectural Historians conference

April 26, 2023

This year, the 76th annual conference of the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) took place in Montreal (April 12-16). The conference included various panels held at the Hôtel Bonaventure, as well as guided tours in and around the city of Montreal. Concordia University’s Department of Art History officially partnered with SAH for this occasion. 

Among the participants were various Concordia graduate students and faculty, who contributed to this exciting international event as tour leaders. Their sold-out walking tours showcased Montreal’s vernacular architecture, as well as some of the city’s iconic modernist buildings. MA student Olivia Vidmar and PhD student Vanessa Sicotte (both supervised by Dr. Cynthia Hammond) offered a tour of Pointe-Saint-Charles, focusing on the gendered, cultural landscape of this deindustrializing, gentrifying neighborhood. In addition to the quiet streets and 19th-century domestic architecture of “the Pointe,” the tour explored the neighborhood in relation to its history of successful, often feminist, community organizing around the right to housing, green space, and other amenities. Tour leader Olivia Vidmar thus reflected on her participation to this event: “Co-leading this SAH walking tour in the Pointe was a great collaborative experience. Our walk aimed to highlight key sites of pre and post-industrial heritage and community activism in Pointe-Saint-Charles and I appreciated our tour attendees' expert questions and insight. It was a privilege to share these histories and discuss with our group.” Meanwhile, Dr. Nicola Pezolet, who regularly teach courses on Montreal urbanism and Canadian architecture, gave a tour of a stretch of Boulevard René-Lévesque Ouest (formerly Boulevard Dorchester). The tour addressed the history of the expansion of this urban boulevard in the 1950s, and also mentioned the construction of such famous buildings as the Mary Queen of the World Cathedral, Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Place Ville-Marie, the Canada Revenue Agency Building, the CIBC Tower and the Telus Tower. Special attention was devoted to one of the city’s most photographed modernist high-rises: Gaston Gagnier’s Siège Social d’Hydro-Québec (commissioned in the late 1950s and inaugurated in 1962). In his tour, Dr. Pezolet discussed the way that modern architecture, as well as graphic design and public art, helped give shape to Hydro-Quebec’s corporate identity at the turn of the 1960s “Révolution Tranquille". Dr. Pezolet, who recently authored an article on Québécois artist Jean-Paul Mousseau for the Journal of Canadian Art History, also analyzed the history of his kinetic light mural commissioned for the entrance lobby of the Hydro building."

Grace-Church_PSC Tour of Grace Church, photo taken by Olivia Vidmar

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