Phyllis Lambert: Profile-Phyllis Lambert; Advocate for Dialogue

By Giraudy, Cheryl | WE International, Winter 1999 | Go to article overview

Phyllis Lambert: Profile-Phyllis Lambert; Advocate for Dialogue


Giraudy, Cheryl, WE International


Phyllis Lambert: Profile - Phyllis Lambert; Advocate for Dialogue

Phyllis Lambert, OC, CQ, OAL, FRAIC, Architect, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist and Community builder.

by Cheryl Giraudy

The Centre for Canadian Architecture (CCA) has so far been the passion and work of a remarkable person. For those who have heard of Phyllis Lambert, she needs no introduction because she is without equal - la grande dame d'architecture. For those who have not, they may not realize what impact she has had on their lives. Ms. Lambert is an architect, a preservationist, an academic lecturer and a major facilitator of dialogue on design issues. Her credentials are extensive, ranging from her professional affiliations to her entrepreneurial pursuits. More recently, Ms. Lambert has been known as the creator and until January 1999, as the director of the CCA. The Centre was founded in 1979, and the building itself opened in 1989. It was the collaboration of Peter Rose, a well known Montreal architect, and Ms. Lambert as the consulting architect and client.

The CCA in Montreal, Canada is a building all at once serene and intriguing. It sits like a grand manoir in a manicured landscape. The detailing is subdued, with grey stone rustication, striking steel details, and rigorous proportions. The building meets the ground with purpose.

The architectural gestures of the CCA are in contrast to the Shaughnessy House, the 19th Century mansion exquisitely restored and to which the CCA is attached. The historic Shaughnessy House encompasses the meeting facilities and administration offices for the CCA.

Once inside the CCA, considered by some to be one of the `gems of modern museums,' the serenity of the exterior gives way to a play of light and dark, to the axial flow of exhibition spaces, and to the richness of materials coming together with a clarity of detailing. The Centre is foremost a museum, it is a cultural institution for the ideas and concepts about how architecture and humankind interact.

It is both a repository for historical artifact, and an experimental laboratory for new design ideas.

The CCA provides ongoing public and traveling exhibitions, publications, forums and library services. As a renowned study centre for the advancement of research in architectural history and thought, it has become a fixture in the minds of architects the world over.

A member of the prestigious Bronfman family, Ms. Lambert commenced her early career as Director of Planning and Building for the Seagram corporation, a family owned company. Her concern and interest for the role of architecture in the public realm and the preservation of the built environment as a record of cultural and social life, lead her to found Heritage Montreal in the 1970's.

Ms. Lambert has won numerous international and national awards for her work in promoting responsive architecture and contributing to cultural and community life. These awards include the prestigious Twenty-Five Year Award from the American Institute of Architects; the Massey Medal and Gold Medal of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, and the Lescarbot Awards by the Government of Canada.

Ms. Lambert continues to use her abilities and influence to pursue needs in the built world. She is sought after as an esteemed member of the design community for assignments in judging international competitions; lecturing about the CCA and its special projects, and teaching as an adjunct professor for various schools of architecture.

Ms. Lambert has created an entity in the CCA which is enduring like it's stone massing - a milestone in museum culture, an important resource for not only those in the design field but for all citizens wanting to better understand the relationship of community to the design process and the built environment.

WE Of your various roles from patron of architecture to champion of local preservation, which fulfilled you most?

PL I was reading my own misinformation in the literature, regarding the word "patron" and I think I really have been an entrepreneur rather than a patron. …

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