His lyrical, conceptual approach to designing public spaces leaves a colourful and deeply original imprint on North American cities
Landscape architect Claude Cormier, the creative force behind of some of Canada’s most beloved, joyous, and critically acclaimed public spaces, has died at his Montreal, Quebec, home on September 15th. He was 63. The cause of death was complications from Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that predisposes carriers to multiple cancers.
Cormier’s joyful and subversive designs blended conceptual clarity with a studied instinct for making enduring places. His ability to design public spaces with broad public appeal stemmed from multiple qualities: audacity, sincerity, discipline, leadership, business acumen, a talent for creative problem solving, and an ability to bring light and laughter to everyone—and every situation—he encountered.
For Toronto’s Berczy Park (2017), he proposed a prominent water fountain featuring life-sized bronze dogs (and a single cat); officials told him that “dogs were not art.” In response, Cormier’s team put together a 50-page presentation on the role of dogs in art over the last 500 years. This paved the way for one of Toronto’s most beloved parks for humans and dogs alike.
The Blue Stick Garden at the inaugural Métis Garden Festival (1999) was composed of painted sticks inspired by the classic Victorian border garden, with a gradation of heights from low in the front to tall in the back.
His best-known contribution to Montreal’s historic waterfront is Clock Tower Beach (2012) with its distinctive blue umbrellas.
Completed in 2007, HTO, designed in association with Janet Rosenberg Associates, was the first in what would become a series of urban beaches designed by Cormier. Sugar Beach (2010) riffed on the beach theme, but this time with giant candy-striped rocks and “Jackie O”-pink umbrellas.
Cormier’s last major works are love letters to his two chosen cities, Montreal and Toronto. The Ring in Montreal (2022) is a monumental 30-metre-diameter steel hoop, suspended between the modernist towers of Henry Cobb’s 1950s Place Ville Marie.
Love Park in Toronto (2023), a heart-shaped pond enclosed by a 170-metre-long red mosaic “love seat,” transforms a former freeway offramp into a town square for a growing community on the city’s downtown waterfront.
About Claude Cormier
Claude Cormier’s work challenges ordinary perceptions of the world, opening eyes to new possibilities and generating an appetite for the extraordinary. Rendering visible the invisible of the everyday, his projects seek to reawaken the joy of phenomena through an apparent simplicity that is complex, but not complicated. Over the years, he has acquired a solid reputation as a prolific designer, noted for his originality and creativity.