Launch of the Claude Cormier Prize in Landscape Architecture at the Daniels Faculty of the University of Toronto
Claude Cormier, a University of Toronto alumnus and renowned Canadian landscape architect, supports Masters of Landscape Architecture (MLA) students at the University of Toronto and strengthens recognition of the importance of the landscape architect profession by creating a scholarship at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design.
The Claude Cormier Prize in Landscape Architecture will cover the national tuition fees of an MLA student each year, in their third and final year, who show promise in pursuing creative and pioneering forms or approaches to the practice.
The scholarship, which was established in 2020 and is now publicly announced as the U of T returns to in-person learning, builds on the gifts Cormier has given to the school since 2000, and is the most large private donation awarded to the Landscape of the U of T architecture program to date.
“This is an important moment for landscape architecture,” says Cormier. “It is increasingly recognized that landscape architecture is not about selecting plants to adorn a building, but rather that the landscape is an integral part of creating meaningful places.
“Landscape architecture is about making connections between people and buildings, connecting natural ecosystems to urban environments, and positively directing our health and that of our planet.
“We need to help the next generation of landscape architects discover new ways of designing for our built environment. “
Cormier first studied agronomy at the University of Guelph before obtaining his bachelor’s degree in professional landscape architecture from the University of Toronto in 1986. He then completed his master’s degree in history and design theory at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. After working for several renowned Quebec design firms, he founded his eponymous studio – Claude Cormier et Associés – in 1995.
His moment of brilliance took place in 2000 at the Festival des jardins métis in northern Quebec with the installation Jardin de Batons Bleus (Jardin de Batons Bleus). Recognizing the limited time for planting and growing the festival facility, Cormier used an intensive arrangement of painted wooden sticks instead of plant material. Its abstract perennial garden delighted visitors and quickly established its reputation for subversive designs that extended the perception and definition of landscape architecture.
In Montreal, the summer installation Pink Balls – a kilometer-long canopy of pink plastic balls swinging over Sainte-Catherine Street – was designed as a landmark for a pedestrian neighborhood during the pride season which was later reinstalled in rainbow hues as 18 Shades of Gay. With a modest optimized budget, the facility established an iconic image of its neighborhood (the Gay Village), attracting international media, more visits by locals and tourists, and an overall improvement in the neighborhood’s reputation.
Bâton Bleu Garden (Claude Cormier and Associates)
With Sugar Beach in 2010, Cormier wowed Torontonians with a permanent installation of pink umbrellas and a sandy beach just south of the business district. The park has demonstrated that contemporary public spaces can add value and enjoyment in equal measure. More recently, the design of Berczy Park in Toronto includes a huge 19th century style three-tier fountain with 27 cast iron dogs, a large bone and a cat. The unusual installation creates a welcoming environment and encourages conversation between strangers.
“As I get older, I am grateful for those who have supported my trajectory and for the life I have been able to enjoy by designing spaces that surprise and delight people, regardless of their demographics or origin,” explains Cormier. “The notion of inheritance has become very important to me, and with that, it’s a great desire to uplift others. I am proud to support Daniels Faculty, its students and the University of Toronto because it is both my alma mater and such a progressive and cosmopolitan school.
Sugar Beach, Toronto (Industrial photography)
Associate Professor Liat Margolis, director of the landscape architecture program, says: “Claude is not only a source of inspiration for our students, he is also a ‘happy donor’. His extreme generosity and jgoose to live elevates both our curriculum and the art and profession of landscape architecture. He inspires our students with his creations, with their unconventional materiality, and their ability to respond to serious concerns with good humor. With this award, our students will forever remember his remarkable career. “
Agata Mrozowski, a third-year master’s in business administration student and 2021 recipient of the Claude Cormier Prize in Landscape Architecture, says the scholarship helps her complete her studies.
“It took me a village for this graduate experience at the University of Toronto in the master’s program in landscape architecture to be possible. Receiving this gift signifies a sense of relief, as there were times when I was not sure I had the means and the capacity to complete my studies.
Mrozowski’s connection to Cormier’s work began during her first year of the MLA program when she focused on Sugar Beach as a previous study for her visual communication course.
“I spent a lot of time there and learned that what is an aesthetically playful and whimsical design is deeply rooted in the historical context of the site and in a direct conversation with the Redpath Sugar Factory straight from there. ‘other side of the harbor,’ explains Mrozowski. “I appreciate that his work does not romanticize or idealize notions of nature, but works within urban constraints in a creative and thoughtful way to produce public spaces.”