July 28, 2017

Claude Cormier : La Vie En Rose


Pink Balls in Montreal’s Gay Village

It’s a busy year for Claude Cormier. His popular “Pink Balls” installation in Montreal’s Gay Village was revamped with rainbow hues, he launched “La Balade pour la Paix,” an open-air museum also in Montreal, and rejuvenated Toronto’s Berczy Park. The influential landscape architect will discuss his work as a keynote at the WDS Congress this October in Montreal.

Cormier credits his perspective on landscape architecture to his upbringing on a farm in rural Quebec, where nature was a part of daily life rather than a place to escape. After studying plant genetics, Cormier pursued landscape architecture with the idea of making nature more playful.

After completing a Master’s degree at Harvard University, he opened his firm in Montreal in 1995. Over the next two decades, he became a leader in “conceptual” landscape architecture, which emphasizes a concept as the driving force behind projects. Cormier’s most ambitious projects are social catalysts, bringing people out to the streets and together in new ways.

Balade pour la Paix in Montreal

World Design Summit attendees will get to see one of Cormier’s latest projects firsthand. La Balade pour la Paix, an installation in downtown Montreal, will be open until October 29th. Claude Cormier + Associés installed flags from countries around the world along a stretch of Sherbrooke Street between the Museum of Fine Arts and McGill University.

The route also includes urban furniture by Quebec industrial designer Michel Dallaire. Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Cormier’s installation celebrates the spirit of Expo 67, charging Sherbrooke Street with international character and promoting a message of tolerance and diversity.

18 Shades of Gay in Montreal’s Gay Village

Perhaps Cormier’s best-known project, “Pink Balls” was reimagined this year as “18 Shades of Gay.” Since 2011, Cormier’s firm installs a canopy of rosy spheres above a pedestrian-only stretch of Saint Catherine Street in Montreal’s Gay Village each summer. This year, for the 35th anniversary of the Village, the balls come in 18 shades, creating a kilometer-long rainbow.

“The colour really brings the notion of optimism and hope to the neighbourhood,” Cormier says, “and it really brings the village together.” The project is designed to be non-invasive; since it hangs overhead, pedestrians and merchants can make full use of the street while enjoying the art. The annual project is sponsored by the Village’s merchant association, which benefits from the increased foot traffic brought by the installation.

Berczy Park’s dog fountain in Toronto

Cormier is now bringing his signature playfulness to Toronto. “We do get a little carried away sometimes,” the landscape architect said of the newly reopened Berczy Park, which features statues of dogs spitting water into a fountain. The park is intended to bring together two groups of downtown residents often at odds: dog owners and parents. “Bringing everyone together,” Cormier told the Globe & Mail, “That’s where the magic is.”

The park will include big trees and European-style features, rare in Toronto. The city is adding many public spaces to meet density goals, ensuring plenty of work for Cormier in the years ahead. His office is currently designing a network of laneways in arcades and planning a cat-themed park to complement the dog park.

Claude Cormier’s projects challenge the staid image of landscape architecture by bringing a sense of whimsy to planned spaces. Projects like “Pink Balls” show the lasting impact that ephemeral installations have on cities. His work inspires DIY tactical urbanism as much as major urban developments. Cormier represents the creativity of Quebec and the openness of Canada; his designs transform the world and we can’t wait to see what he brings to the World Design Summit this October.