In 1981 the archives of Montréal architect Ernest Cormier (1885-1980) became the first 20th-century fonds in the CCA Collection. After studying civil engineering at the École polytechnique de Montréal (1902-1906), Cormier completed his education in Europe by studying architecture at the École des Beaux-arts de Paris (1911-1917). With the support of a scholarship from the Royal Institute of British Architects, he spent two years in Rome before returning to Canada permanently in 1918 to launch his career as an architect and engineer. Architectural historian Isabelle Gournay argues that Cormier’s work was clearly “a significant part of an international movement in which North American and European influences converge.”1
Starting in the 1920s, Cormier was invited to work on major projects, including the addition to the Palais de Justice on Notre-Dame Street in Montréal (with Louis A. Amos and Charles J. Saxe), completed in 1926; Saint-Ambroise church and presbytery on Beaubien Street in Montréal (1923-1928); and the new Université de Montréal campus on the northwest slope of Mount Royal (first sketches, mid-1920s; opening of main building, June 1943). The 1930s featured, among other projects, the Pine Avenue West house in Montréal (1930-1931) and the Supreme Court of Canada building in Ottawa (1938-1950). In the following decade, his design for the exterior doors to the United Nations Headquarters in New York gave an additional boost to his reputation. He subsequently worked on projects in Toronto (St. Michael’s College, with J.F. Brennan, 1948; St. Basil’s College and the Carr Hall administration building, with Brennan and Whale, in 1949 and 1950 respectively); in Hull, Québec (Imprimerie Nationale du Canada, 1950-1958); and Québec City, on the Laval University campus (Grand Séminaire, 1957-1960).
Cormier was adept in many arts, including watercolour painting, photography, and bookbinding. The many works conserved in the archive, along with several items from his library, demonstrate the depth of Cormier’s talent and breadth of his interests. The Ernest Cormier Archive at the CCA includes 30,000 drawings, 14,000 documentary photographs, and 93 linear metres of textual material.
An exhibition devoted to Cormier’s work at the Université de Montréal was assembled and presented at the CCA in 1990 and accompanied by the publication Ernest Cormier and the Université de Montréal.
The Ernest Cormier Archive is part of a research collection of nearly 145 archival fonds from Canadian architects who worked in Canada and elsewhere, primarily in the 20th and 21st centuries. Among others, the collection includes the archives of ARCOP, Wells Coates, Arthur Erickson, André Blouin, Humphrey Carver, Roger D’Astous, Gérin-Lajoie, Richard Henriquez, Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg, Lahaie-Ouellet, Phyllis Lambert, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, John C. Parkin, Jacques Rousseau, Saucier + Perrotte, Shim-Sutcliffe, and van Ginkel Associates.
1Ernest Cormier and the Université de Montréal, Isabelle Gournay (ed.), Montréal, Canadian Centre for Architecture and Éditions du Méridien, 1990, p. 31.