Ernest Cormier

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Ernest Cormier
Ernest Cormier.jpg
in the 1920's
Born December 5, 1885
Montreal, Quebec
Died January 1, 1980(1980-01-01) (aged 94)
Nationality Canadian
Alma mater École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts
Occupation Architect
Buildings central building of the Université de Montréal; Casault pavilion of Université Laval; Supreme Court of Canada
Main building of the Université de Montréal, by Ernest Cormier
Supreme Court of Canada building, by Ernest Cormier
Église Sainte-Marguerite-Marie-Alacoque, Montréal, (1924-1925)
Église Saint-Ambroise, Montréal, (1923)

Ernest Cormier, OC (December 5, 1885 – January 1, 1980) was a Canadian engineer and architect who spent much of his career in the Montreal area, erecting notable examples of Art Deco architecture, including his home in the Golden Square Mile, Cormier House.

Life and career[edit]

He was born in Montreal, the son of a medical doctor, and he studied civil engineering at the École Polytechnique in Montreal. After graduation in 1906, he worked in the research department of the Dominion Bridge Company in Montreal. In 1909, he studied at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the atelier of Jean-Louis Pascal. In 1914, he was the recipient of the Henry Jarvis Scholarship, awarded by the Royal Institute of British Architects. Through its British Prix de Rome, Cormier spent two years in the Eternal City, where he studied the ancient works. Following his return to Paris in January 1917, he was employed by the engineering firm of Considère, Pelnard et Caquot, specialists in concrete, and he graduated as an architect of the French Government (DPLG).

He was a professor at the École Polytechnique in Montreal (1921–1954).

Major works[edit]

Université de Montréal[edit]

Cormier's major work is the central building of the Université de Montréal on the north slope of Mount Royal. This huge example of the Art Deco style was built between World War I and the middle of World War II and it has been kept in a nearly pristine shape over the decades. It is a composition of simple forms of planes and surfaces in successive relief, emphasizing vertical lines. The light buff vitrified brick has trimmings of Missisquoi marble.[1] The only major destruction of his designs took place within the interior spaces. These changes occurred in the 1970s when the great multi-storey hall of the central library was filled up with several smaller, single-storey rooms for the faculty of medicine and its library.

Casault pavilion[edit]

Another important example of Cormier's work can be found on another Québec university campus, the Casault pavilion of Université Laval, familiarly known by students as the 'Louis-Jacques'. Designed in 1948 but only completed in 1960, it is a massive cathedral-like building, originally designed as Québec City's Grand Séminaire, which is particularly spectacular viewed from a distance along the impressive mall that runs along the East-West axis of the campus grounds.[2] Despite an unfortunate renovation scheme in the 1970s, which gutted the chapel, filled in the magnificent enclosed courtyard and transformed the interior into an undecipherable labyrinth, the building has become the most recognized landmark of the second oldest university in North America and home to Laval's faculties of Music and Communications, as well as to Québec's National Archives.

Rhode Island churches[edit]

Cormier also designed two important Roman Catholic Churches for the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, USA.[3] One of them, St. John the Baptist Church of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Maison Cormier[edit]

Cormier's own home, on Montreal's avenue des Pins, is one of the finest examples of an Art Deco dwelling in the world.[citation needed] Pierre Trudeau purchased the building and lived there following his retirement until his death in 2000.[4]

Supreme Court of Canada Building[edit]

Cormier is also responsible for the classic chateau-styled Supreme Court of Canada building (1939–40) in Ottawa.[5]

Other commissions[edit]

He was a design consultant for the United Nations building in New York and in Toronto, Cormier designed St. Michael's College School (1950) and Carr Hall at St. Michael's College (University of Toronto, 1954).[6]

Style and legacy[edit]

In addition to showing a great balance, in most of his buildings, between the disciplines of engineering and architecture, Cormier also had great skills as a painter and illustrator. He has left us many stunning renderings of his works, done in the planning stages.

In 1974, Cormier was inducted into the Order of Canada by Governor General Jules Léger, and received numerous honours and awards. The Édifice Ernest-Cormier (which he co-designed), the Quebec Court of Appeal building in Old Montreal, is named in his honour.[7]

See also[edit]

Architecture of Quebec


  1. ^ "A photograph of the Université de Montréal campus in an aerial view, ca. 1928". Art Deco and the Decorative Arts in the 1920s and 1930s Digital Exhibition. McGill University Library. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  2. ^ Photo
  3. ^ Notre Dame, Central Falls, Rhode Island, USA
  4. ^ Adams, Annmarie; Macdonell, Cameron (2016). "Making Himself at Home: Cormier, Trudeau, and the Architecture of Domestic Masculinity". Winterthur Portfolio. 50 (2/3): 151–189. Retrieved 2 February 2017. 
  5. ^ Pound, Richard W. (2005). 'Fitzhenry and Whiteside Book of Canadian Facts and Dates'. Fitzhenry and Whiteside. 
  6. ^ "About - Our History". University of St. Michael's College in the University of Toronto. Archived from the original on 2012-06-22. Retrieved 2012-05-02. 
  7. ^ Ulysses Travel Guide, Quebec

Further reading[edit]

  • Isabelle Gournay, editor, Ernest Cormier and the Université de Montréal. Translation by Terrance Hughes and Nancy Côté. Montréal : Canadian Centre for Architecture, 1990.
  • Adrian Tinniswood, The Art Deco House: Avant-Garde Houses of the 1920s and 1939s. New York: Watson-Guptil Publications, 2002.
  • Ulysses Travel Guides, Collective (2007). Montreal. Montreal: Ulysses Travel Guides. ISBN 978-2-89464-797-4.  External link in |publisher= (help)

External links[edit]