Blatter, Robert

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BLATTER, Robert (1899-1998), an exceptionally gifted architect active in Quebec City and a designer who made a major contribution to the introduction and evolution of the modernist style in 20th C. architecture in Canada. He was active in the following architectural firms in Quebec City:

Raoul Chenevert, as assistant to R. Chenevert, 1927-29
Bigonesse & Blatter, architects, 1929-34
Vallerand & Blatter, architects, 1934-36
Blatter & Caron, architects, 1936 to 1960
Blatter, Caron & Cote, architects, 1960 to c. 1975

Blatter was born in Konolfingen, near Berne, Switzerland on 27 May 1899 and he studied at the Ecole Techinque de Berne (in 1916-18), and in Zurich at the Ecole des Arts et Technique in 1918-21. During this period, he served an architectural apprenticeship in Berne with the firm of Sherler & Berger, Architects. In late 1921 he moved to Luneville, France and was employed as chief assistant to the architect Henry Deville, assisting him with plans for the church at Embermenil, and the City Hall at Baccarat, France. In 1922, Blatter moved to Paris and obtained a job in the office of the French architect Maxime Roisin. When Roisin received the commission to rebuild the Basilica at Ste. Anne de Beaupre in Canada, just outside Quebec City, he assigned Blatter to the job, and it was Blatter who prepared many of the drawings of the interior décor and he later visited the site in Quebec to supervise the construction between 1922 and 1926. During these visits, Blatter met Raoul Chenevert, who offered him a job in 1927 in his Quebec City office to assist with the design and drawings of the Hotel Clarendon in Quebec City, and to work on other commissions for schools, convents and the Prison in Chicoutimi. After completing his work with Chenevert, Blatter joined in a new partnership in Quebec City with J. Aurele Bigonesse (see list of works under Bigonesse & Blatter) and they worked together until 1934. He then joined J.G. Gabriel Vallerand for two years, and in late 1936 formed a new partnership with G. Fernand Caron, a successful collaboration which was to last for the next 25 years. After 1960, they were joined by Gilles Cote.

For the first 22 years of his career in Quebec, from 1927 to 1949, Blatter did not work as a registered architect, choosing instead to style himself as a design consultant to other professional architects in Quebec City. On his letterhead stationary, which he used to describe his services, he listed himself as “Robert Blatter: Studio Decoration Moderne - Meuble Installe Decore”. It was only after July 1949, when his application for Membership in the P.Q,.A.A. was accepted, that he could legally practise as a registered architect. This issue did not deter him from producing some of the most distinctive and progressive early designs for modernist houses such as the Bourdon House (1934), and the Kerhulu House (1945), both of which set a new standard for the emerging modernist movement in Eastern Canada.

Blatter can also be considered as a major contributor to the styling and design of the Quebec Coliseum Arena (1950-51), and he is also the genius behind the concept for the design and composition of the Sisters of Charity Mother House (1953-56), with its breathtaking linear façade measuring 425 ft. in length, punctuated only by an elegant entrance pavilion carefully aligned on the central axis of the building.

Few references can be found to the work of Blatter after 1965, and his deteriorating eyesight made it difficult for him to continue to practise. Blatter died in Quebec City at the age of 99 years on 2 June 1998 (obituary with port. Le Soleil [Quebec City], 5 June 1998, C 10; biography L. Noppen et al, Quebec Monumental 1890-1990, 178). A biography and interview with the architect was published in journal Continuite [Quebec City], Spring 1988, page 10. A detailed list of projects which Blatter completed between 1930 to 1949 appears in his Application for Membership submitted to the Province of Quebec Association of Architects on 19 July 1949.

ROBERT BLATTER

SILLERY, QUE., residence for Dr. Charles E. Bourdon, St. Louis Road, 1934; demol. (L. Noppen et al, Quebec - Trois siecles d’architecture, 1979, 98-99, illus.; H. Kalman, History of Canadian Architecture, 1994, 783-84, illus. & descrip.)

BLATTER & CARON

RIMOUSKI, QUE, Cinema Cartier, c. 1940 (list of works in P.Q.A.A Application by Blatter, dated 19 July 1949)
QUEBEC CITY, QUE., W. Brunet Pharmacy, St. Joseph Street, c. 1940 (list of works in P.Q.A.A Application by Blatter, dated 19 July 1949)
QUEBEC CITY, QUE., St. Francois d'Assise Hospital, 1st Avenue at LeClerc Avenue, c. 1940 (list of works in P.Q.A.A Application by Blatter, dated 19 July 1949)
QUEBEC CITY, QUE. Cinema Pigalle, St. Joseph Street, c. 1940 (list of works in P.Q.A.A Application by Blatter, dated 19 July 1949)
SILLERY, QUE., residence for Joseph Kerhulu, St. Louis Road near Sheppard Street, 1945 (L. Noppen et al, Quebec Monumental 1890-1990, 117, illus. & descrip.)
QUEBEC CITY, QUE., The Quebec Coliseum Arena, 1950-51 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxix, Jan. 1952, 20, illus.; Batiment, xxix, June 1954, 45-7, illus. & descrip.; L. Noppen et al, Quebec - Trois siecles d’architecture, 1979, 408, illus.)
SAINTE FOY, QUE., Dept. of Veterans Affairs Central Hospital, on the campus of Laval University, Laurier Boulevard near Jean de Quen Avenue, 1953-54, with Roland Dupere and Charles A. Jean, Architects, 1953-54 (L. Noppen et al, Quebec Monumental 1890-1990, 120, illus. & descrip.)
BEAUPORT, QUE., Roman Catholic Mother House, for the Sisters of Charity, Le Pettetier Street near St. Samuel Avenue, 1953-56, with Jean B. Gagnon, architect of the Chapel (Batiment, xxx, Dec. 1955, 22-3, illus.; Canadian Building, v, Sept. 1955, 44-5, illus.; Architecture Batiment Construction, xii, March 1957, 40-3, illus. & descrip.; L. Noppen et al, Quebec Monumental 1890-1990, 165, illus. & descrip.)
BEAUPRE, QUE., Roman Catholic church, 1956 (Architecture Batiment Construction, xi, Feb. 1956, 32-33, illus. & descrip.)
QUEBEC CITY, QUE., St. Sacrement Recreation Hall, 1958 (Batiment, xxxiii, May 1958, 30-1, illus. & descrip.)
QUEBEC CITY, QUE., Le Solidarite Office Building, Grande Allee West at de Merici Avenue, 1959-60 (Architecture Batiment Construction, Nov. 1960, 345-49, illus. & descrip.; R.A.I.C. Journal, xxxviii, April 1961, 61-63, illus. & descrip.; L. Noppen et al, Quebec Monumental 1890-1990, 178), 56, illus. & descrip.)

BLATTER, CARON & COTE

QUEBEC CITY, QUE., St. Louis de France Church, 1962 (Architecture Batiment Construction, xvii, March 1962, 26-30, illus.)