Bungalow blues

(NC)-Once a staple of the landscape, the bungalow is slowly disappearing across Québec. Criticized as boring, ordinary and a symbol of Québec’s assimilation into American culture, the small one-story house has lost favour with house owners and developers alike.

But, at the Université du Québec à Montréal, an urban studies professor is fighting to keep it alive.

“The bungalow of the Québec suburbs is characteristically Québecois,” says Lucie Morisset, who, together with Luc Noppen, Canada Research Chair in Urban Heritage, studies the cultural significance of this unique structure.

According to Morisset, the 40-foot-wide, 25-foot-deep bungalow commonplace in Québec has no connection with the ranch house of U.S. suburbia or the recreational home in the eastern Indian state of Bengal from which it gets its name (the root is the Bengali word bangla). In fact, it is based on plans developed by the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) for families looking for affordable houses in the post-war baby-boom years. In the 1950s and 1960s, the bungalow à long pan, i.e., one where the front is longer than the side, tookoot in cities across Québec.

Unique to the region
“This type of bungalow could not have been introduced in any other province,” Morisset explains. “In most places urban planning regulations prompted developers to focus on homes with narrower frontage and less expensive properties.” In Québec, however, municipalities were very supportive, and the Québec bungalow, with its large kitchen, basement and carport, grew in popularity.

And while bungalows became commonplace across the province, they could hardly be called boring or ordinary.

“They were custom-built rather than being part of standard housing projects, and the contractors usually worked without plans,” says Morisset. “The bungalows were given a personal touch, with different materials and architectural details. And it is this variety that makes each Québec bungalow unique.”

Unfortunately, a whole generation of Québec architectural history is on the verge of extinction. Because they were built close to the city on land that is steadily going up in value, bungalows are being replaced with larger, more expensive homes.

“Ironically,” Morisset adds, “with the new popularity of turreted homes built in multiple units, we may well end up with much more uniform-looking neighbourhoods than the bungalow could ever create.”

To find out more about research funded by the Canada Research Chairs Program, visit its Web site at www.chairs.gc.ca.

– News Canada