The use of narrative and memory in architecture is central to the practice of Montréal’s Jacques Rousseau (b. 1948). Recipient of the 1988 Prix de Rome in Architecture from the Canada Council for the Arts, Rousseau dedicated his stay in Rome to a reflection on the city of Montréal and the expansion of its urban fabric. The site of the eighteenth-century fortified city becomes a foundation – the base layer of an urbanism seeking to reconcile the moment with memory.
The archaeology of the Eternal City fascinated Rousseau – “6000 years of it, five metres deep, testifying to the resilience of the land, one grown mature through successes and failures. Layered generations, layered times, alive through us, contemporary witnesses. What significant archaeology did the New World carry deep in its ground for us to unfold into our future?”1
Rousseau compared the depth of the archaeological Roman history to that of Montréal, which lies a mere sixty centimeters deep. But what he realized was that prehistory was closest to the surface. He concluded that “the youngest countries, were yet the oldest.”2
1 The Prix de Rome in Architecture: A Retrospective, ed. Marco Polo, p. 65.
2 Ibid., p. 65.