The trailblazing Quebecois landscape architect Claude Cormier passed away two weeks ago after a thirty-year career spent creating many of Canada’s most lauded and inventive public spaces. Known for his joyful yet probing designs, Claude often upended status quos. Projects like Sugar Beach and Berczy Park resist traditional municipal aesthetics as much as they celebrate them. Both parks were initially criticized and then widely embraced and ultimately beloved, a progression that demonstrates just how insightful and courageous Claude was.
Claude had a longstanding relationship with ERA. Two of our most interesting collaborations were never fully realized. Camouflage Park, a park flanking Keating Channel in Toronto’s Port Lands, reflected layers of industrialization and naturalization on the landscape using patches of brown and green. (Claude even gave a presentation about the scheme in our office dressed in camouflage.) In our plans for the development of Commerce Court Square, Claude proposed putting a sadly unrealized full-size sailboat in the fountain at its centre so that bankers would look down and wish they were on the Toronto Islands.
Such playful, thoughtful instincts defined many of our fully realized joint projects too—Evergreen Brick Works, the L Tower, and The Well being just a few examples. Claude’s contributions to the 21st-century urban Canadian experience can’t be understated. The places he designed, and the perspectives and impulses he imbued them with, will continue to electrify our sense of cities for centuries to come.
A longtime friend and colleague of Claude’s, ERA principal Michael McClelland was quoted in the Montreal Gazette’s obituary. Alex Bozikovic and Edward Keenan also wrote tributes to Claude in the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail.
photograph by Will Lew