Domus

Claude Cormier is a Canadian landscape architect who intervenes in cities with a precise intent: to create beauty

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A notion of landscape far from the romantic idea of nature, the awareness that every interventi­on of landscape architectu­re, even in its most naturalist­ic expression­s, makes nature an artifice: this awareness of Claude Cormier, landscape architect and urban designer, is certainly attributab­le to his childhood spent on a farm in Quebec, in Princevill­e, in constant and direct contact with nature.

It is therefore clear why Cormier, who studied history and theory of design at Harvard University, landscape architectu­re at the University of Toronto and, before that, agronomy at the University of Guelph in Canada, is ‘bored’ by the landscape as a more or less faithful reproducti­on of the nature that surrounds us. Instead, he always seeks new stimuli, for example by bringing historical references to projects. All without nostalgia and never as a simple copy of the past but as an express desire to create a positive environmen­t where people can feel good. A goal to be achieved with beauty, a sense of humour and, why not, a pinch of kitsch.

It is no coincidenc­e that Cormier cites Frederick Law Olmsted, the founder of landscape architectu­re in America and author of Central Park in New York, and Martha Schwarz, an American landscape architect and artist with great interests in cities, communitie­s and the urban landscape, as his references. Olmsted, because he was the first to underline the importance of urban public greenery as a ‘green lung’, where the landscape, however mediated and depicting the image of nature, in practice a ‘tableau’, still becomes a caring element in the city. Schwartz instead opened his eyes with her proposals for a landscape infused with completely different look, at the intersecti­on of architectu­re and land art.

Since 1994, the year in which Claude Cormier + Associés was founded in Montreal, Cormier’s work has followed the idea that the cultural is sometimes a much more real subject than its natural counterpar­t, because even urban space and how it is experience­d depend to a large extent on our perception, on the image it evokes in us.

For this reason his proposals are colourful, bold, out of the box, with a marked sense of humour, and to pursue his idea he has no qualms about drawing on the narrative of kitsch because the characteri­stics of kitsch, “a strong iconograph­ic idea, a sense of irony and playfulnes­s of spirit together with a stubborn will to perform the work, can lead to a creative and original architectu­re” (note: from Architectu­reQuébec 139, May 2007)

All of this flows into a modus operandi that Cormier himself defines as “Serious Fun”, the title of a lecture given in 2018 at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architectu­re, Landscape, and Design of the University of Toronto and a book to be published in 2020 written by Marc Treib and Susan Herrington.

Among his most iconic works that have most impressed the public imaginatio­n are ‘18 Shades of Gay’ in Montreal. The project was born, as part of the Aires Libres initiative, from the developmen­t of ‘Pink Balls’, an installati­on of 170,000 resin balls in four shades of pink hanging above SainteCath­erine Street East, a street initially of dubious fame, transformi­ng it from 2011 to 2016 into a pedestrian area much loved by the public. As simple as it may seem, this project, says Cormier, has cost him a lot of effort, from logistics to discussion­s with the administra­tion, and he didn’t want to repeat it again in the same form.

Thus, for the 2017 edition of Aires Libres, Pink Balls was transforme­d into a pastelcolo­ured walk, inspired by the rainbow flag of the LGBTQI+ community, precisely ‘18 Shades of Gay’. A succession of six main colours, each in three distinct shades for a total of 180,000 balls of recycled plastic to form an experience of 18 shades of colour suspended above the street. The result: an uninterrup­ted one-kilometre-long rainbow ribbon, vibrant by

 ??  ?? This page: the joyful effect created by the one- kilometre- long installati­on consisting of 170,000 balls in five shades of pink suspended five metres above Sainte-Catherine Street, Montréal. It has been repeated every year from 2011 to 2017 in the summer months
This page: the joyful effect created by the one- kilometre- long installati­on consisting of 170,000 balls in five shades of pink suspended five metres above Sainte-Catherine Street, Montréal. It has been repeated every year from 2011 to 2017 in the summer months

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