Morgan Lowry, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, September 15, 2023 at 2:48 PM EST
Last updated Friday, September 15, 2023 at 2:48 PM EST
MONTREAL – Claude Cormier, the celebrated Canadian landscape architect who helped design some of Montreal and Toronto’s most iconic public spaces, has died at the age of 63.
Cormier died Friday in Montreal after complications from Li-Fraumeni syndrome, a rare genetic condition that makes carriers susceptible to multiple cancers, his company, Claude Cormier + Associes, said.
An obituary on the company’s website says Cormier was the creative force behind some of Canada’s “beloved, delightful and critically acclaimed” public spaces, including Toronto’s Berzi Park with its famous dog fountain, and its pink — and later multicolored — plastic ball canopy. Which for years hung in rows above the Village District in Montreal.
“Cormier’s exhilarating and subversive designs blended conceptual clarity with a considered instinct to create enduring places,” the obituary says.
“His ability to design public spaces with broad public appeal stems from multiple qualities: boldness, sincerity, discipline, leadership, business acumen, a talent for creative problem-solving, and the ability to bring light and laughter to everyone – and every situation – encountered.”
His works ranged from high-traffic squares, such as Yeovil Square and Dorchester Square in Montreal, to the brightly colored umbrellas at Clock Tower Beach in Montreal and Sugar Beach in Toronto.
Cormier also collaborated on the design of the National Holocaust Memorial in Ottawa, which opened in 2017.
His last big projects were a 30-metre suspended steel hoop in downtown Montreal that he called “The Loop,” and a heart-shaped love park in Toronto — both described in obituaries as love letters to Cormier’s favorite cities.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante praised Cormier on social media, calling him a “visionary, builder and great Montrealer.”
“His impact on city icons and public spaces can be counted by the dozens: The Ring, Village Balls, Dorchester Square, Clock Beach, and more,” she wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“His architectural works are a legacy that will remain in our memories forever.”
The obituary says Cormier was born in the small town of Princeville, Que. He originally studied agricultural engineering at university in order to take over the family farm, but later switched to landscape architecture, earning a bachelor’s degree at the University of Toronto.
He studied at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, where he earned a master’s degree in design history and theory.
The obituary says Cormier has embraced a role as an ambassador for LGBT issues in his work, with a “distinctive blend of avant-garde techniques and accessible fun (that) creates spaces that emotionally resonate with — and beyond — LGBTQ2S+ clients and communities.”
These projects include the Lipstick Forest — made up of 52 hot-pink concrete tree trunks in Montreal’s main convention center — as well as the seasonal plastic ball project over the city’s Sainte-Catherine Street, whose final iteration was titled 18 Shades of Gay and evoked an LGBTQ flag in rainbow colors. rainbow.
But while his art was fun, Cormier suffered from a genetic mutation that caused several members of his family on his father’s side to die at an early age from cancer. According to the obituary, Cormier continued to work with medical researchers to better understand the condition after he was diagnosed with lung cancer, kidney cancer and a rare form of lymphoma four years ago.
He is survived by his mother, sister, brother, nieces and nephew, as well as many colleagues and friends, the obituary says.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2023.