The Canadian Centre for Architecture honours the memory of Melvin Charney

Over the course of his career, artist-architect Melvin Charney was involved in many projects that united the fields of art and architecture. His work took both a celebratory and critical perspective of the urban environment.

A native of Montreal, Charney studied architecture at McGill and Yale University to work for different in Paris and New York in 1961. In 1964 he returned to Montreal to accept a position in the architectural department at the Université de Montréal. Appointed associate professor in 1966, he created and directed the Faculté d’aménagement from 1968 to 1972, and the Unité d’architecture urbaine from 1978 to 1992. He subsequently authored numerous studies in urban design and architecture and was a visiting critic at universities around the world.

His work came to international attention following his proposal for the Canadian pavilion for the Osaka World Fair in 1970. Though the proposal was not accepted, it was widely acclaimed. He soon after launched a series of photo-based paintings: Un Dictionnaire… (1970s-2001), Le Trésor de Trois-Rivières (1975), Les maisons de la rue Sherbrooke (1976) and Room 202 (1979). He received the Prix Borduas from the government of Quebec (1996), was named a Chevalier of the Ordre National du Québec (2003), Commandeur of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2006), and received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from McGill University (2009). He was chosen to represent Canada at the Venice Biennale both in art and architecture (1986 and 2000).

In 1987 he began developing the CCA’s sculpture garden, a process which took two years. His other well-known public works include the prize-winning entry for the Canadian Human Rights Monument in Ottawa.

“Charney occupied a prominent place in contemporary art and architecture in a vibrant fusion of disciplines that encapsulates the essence of the urban environment. His work encompassed a vast territory both physically and philosophically, and his contribution was especially appreciated in France,” said his longtime friend and collaborator Phyllis Lambert, CCA’s Founding Director.

Charney passed away on September 17, 2012.

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