Ode to Claude Cormier from Phyllis Lambert
“Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made; Those of pearls that were his eye; Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea change into something rich and strange.” The Tempest, William Shakespeare
Claude Cormier(1960-2023) is unique in Quebec and possibly in Canada as an intellectual designer of landscape. Well versed in agronomy and horticultural science, his public work veered towards conceptual art rather than scientific fields. This direction grew out of a Faustian bargain Cormier struck with me: If the CCA would support his graduate study at Harvard for a year, he would consult on the health and maintenance of the CCA gardens over time. I must add that at that time, the early 1980s, modernist practice was not apparent in Montreal. Thirty years later, the publication Serious Fun: The Landscapes of Claude Cormier tells of an extensive practice. Cormier’s work that I know personally covers most of the public and private typologies found in the book: unusual species and unusual form that partake of the “traditional” garden that forecourts a house; large stout tree-referring pink forms humanize a municipal convention hall; extensive riverside lawns that make you think of pools of water; small areas of grass and path collages are entrances and connectors — ideas that compose plazas, public gardens, monuments, squares, esplanades, all these in the heart of the city. Cormier’s high level of innovation changes the beat of the city.
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