Head, Field Projects

Conservation image

François LeBlanc has been the head of Field Projects for the GCI since 2001, overseeing projects in China, Honduras, El Salvador, Italy, and Tunisia, as well as initiatives in documentation and earthen architecture conservation.

Raised in the suburbs of Montreal in a French-speaking home—the son of a bank accountant and a French tutor—François at an early age displayed an interest in drawing. His mother and aunts played piano, so music was also a part of his childhood, and at 14 he took up the saxophone. In college he earned money playing with a rhythm and blues band that ultimately made a couple of commercial recordings.

But it was his interest in drawing that led him toward a career in architecture. After graduating from Montreal University with a B.A. in architecture in 1971—shortly after marrying and having the first of two children—he was hired by Parks Canada, where he was part of the organization's first preservation team. In 1975 he was appointed the chief of engineering and architecture for Quebec Region Historic Parks and Sites. Four years later the president of ICOMOS Canada (for whom he'd worked at Parks Canada) suggested that he apply for the directorship of ICOMOS in Paris. Hired in 1979, François spent four years with the organization, establishing the first formal set of guidelines for ICOMOS evaluation of nominations to the World Heritage List and developing a more extensive advisory role for ICOMOS with UNESCO.

Subsequently returning to Canada, François took a position as vice president of the Heritage Canada Foundation. There he concentrated on conservation programs, in particular the "Main Street Canada" program, which used commercial development to enhance architectural preservation in more than 100 small communities. But by 1992, he was eager to return to architecture and to travel less. That year he joined the National Capital Commission in Ottawa as chief architect, managing a number of architectural projects, many of which were national historic sites. After eight years with the commission, he came to the GCI out of a desire to be part of more international work devoted to conservation. Since taking over as head of Field Projects, he has found particularly exciting the site management planning effort at Joya de Cerén in El Salvador, the technician training initiative in Tunisia, and his advisory role with the current conservation initiative at the Taj Mahal.

In his spare time today, he plays billiards, frequently participating in amateur competitions.