Immigrant Reception Architecture before World War I: Two Canadian Typologies
My recent book, For the Temporary Accommodation of Settlers: Architecture and Immigrant Reception in Canada, 1870-1930 (McGill-Queen’s, 2021), investigates spatial stories at moments of arrival in Dominion government immigration buildings. Driven as much as possible by narratives derived from immigrant memoirs, and from archival documents read against the grain for spatial practices, the book’s research seems a pertinent fit with this session’s theme. For this presentation, I propose to begin with a brief synopsis of the book’s chapters and the immigrant reception building types that structure its organization. Then, the questions posed by the session will be explored via deeper focus on two typologies. I will first look at Canadian quarantine stations, the earliest type of immigration buildings, to understand them as architectures of sorting and surveillance that, paradoxically, also had to serve as spaces of almost resort-like hospitality. For the second typology I will present immigrant detention hospitals, which were architectures of social control and separation by race, health, and legal status. But they were also spaces where immigrants resisted these categorizations and the detentions and deportations that they led to. This presentation, like the book, thus seeks to demonstrate how the displacements of the immigration journey were very much spatialized in specific sites designed by government architects and immigration branch officials, but experienced and practiced by new arrivals.