Claude Cormier makes a $500,000 commitment to the Daniels Faculty

The landscape architect's donation supports an annual MLA student scholarship.

Claude Cormier has made a $500,000 commitment to his alma mater, the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto to support Masters in Landscape Architecture (MLA) students.

The Claude Cormier Award in Landscape Architecture will annually cover the domestic tuition fees of an MLA student, in their third and final year, who “shows promise to pursue creative and pioneering forms or approaches to practice.” 

The scholarship builds on gifts that Cormier has made to the school since 2000, and is the largest private gift designated to U of T’s landscape architecture program. The scholarship was established in 2020 and is now being announced publicly as the Daniels Faculty has returned to in-person learning.   

“This is an important moment for landscape architecture,” says Cormier. “There is growing recognition that landscape architecture is not about selecting plants to adorn a building, but rather that landscape is integral to making meaningful places. Landscape architecture is about drawing connections between people and buildings, connecting natural ecosystems with urban environments, and positively steering the health of ourselves and our planet. We need to support the next generation of landscape architects to discover new ways of designing for our built environment.”

Berczy Park, Toronto (Industryous Photography), designed by Claude Cormier et associés

Agata Mrozowski, third-year MLA student and the 2021 recipient of the Claude Cormier Award in Landscape Architecture remarked, “It has taken a village to make this experience of graduate school at U of T in the Master of Landscape Architecture program possible for me. To receive this gift means a sense of relief, for there were times I was not sure I would have the means and capacity to complete my studies.”

Cormier first studied agronomy at the University of Guelph before graduating from the University of Toronto’s Bachelor of Landscape Architecture professional program in 1986. He went on to complete his Masters in History and Theory of Design at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. After working for several esteemed Québec design practices, he formed his eponymous studio in 1995.  

His breakout moment was in 2000 at the Métis Garden Festival in northern Québec with the installation Blue Stick Garden (Jardin de Batons Bleus). Cormier used an intensive arrangement of painted wooden sticks in lieu of plant material, which delighted visitors and quickly established his reputation for subversive designs.

In Montréal, the summer installation, Pink Balls – a kilometre-long canopy of pink plastic balls swaying over St. Catherine Street – conceived as a landmark for a pedestrian-only district during Pride season that was later reinstalled in rainbow hues as 18 Shades of Gay.

18 Shades of Gay, Montréal (Our American Dream), by Claude Cormier et associés
Sugar Beach, Toronto (Industryous Photography), by Claude Cormier et associés

With Sugar Beach in 2010, Cormier wowed Torontonians with a permanent installation of pink umbrellas and a soft sand beach just south of the Business District. The park demonstrated that contemporary public spaces could add value and fun in equal measure. More recently, the design for Berczy Park in Toronto features a huge three-tier, 19th century-style fountain with 27 cast-iron dogs, a large bone, and a cat. The unusual installation establishes a welcoming environment and prompts conversation amongst strangers.

“As I am getting older, I am grateful to those who supported my trajectory, and for the life I have been able to enjoy designing spaces that bring surprise and delight to people irrespective of their demographic or background,” says Cormier. “The notion of legacy has become very important to me, and with that is a great desire to uplift to others. I am proud to support the Daniels Faculty, its students, and the University of Toronto because it is both my alma mater and such a progressive and cosmopolitan school.”