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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 Cormier House (his home in the Golden Square Mile) and the Supreme Court of Canada Building in Ottawa.

Ernest Cormier
Ernest Cormier.jpg
in the 1920s
BornDecember 5, 1885
DiedJanuary 1, 1980(1980-01-01) (aged 94)
Alma materÉcole nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts
Buildingscentral 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)

Life and careerEdit

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). After his death in 1980, he was interred in Notre Dame des Neiges Cemetery in Montreal.[1]

Major worksEdit

Université de MontréalEdit

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.[2] 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 pavilionEdit

Another important example of Cormier's work can be found on another Quebec 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 Quebec 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.[3] 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 Quebec's National Archives.

Rhode Island churchesEdit

Cormier also designed two important Roman Catholic Churches for the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, USA.[4] One of them, St. John the Baptist Church of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Maison CormierEdit

Cormier's own home, on Montreal's Pine Avenue, is one of the finest examples of an Art Deco dwelling in the world.[citation needed] Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau purchased the building and lived there following his retirement until his death in 2000.[5]

Supreme Court of Canada BuildingEdit

Cormier is also responsible for the classic chateau-styled Supreme Court of Canada building (1939–40) in Ottawa.[6]

Other commissionsEdit

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).[7]

Style and legacyEdit

In addition to showing great balance between the disciplines of engineering and architecture in most of his buildings, Cormier also had great skills as a painter and illustrator. He left many 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.[8]

In 2018, Cormier was named a National Historic Person, and the Ernest Cormier House and Roger Gaudry Building at the University of Montreal were designated National Historic Sites.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Ernest Cormier". Répertoire du patrimoine culturel du Québec. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  2. ^ "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.
  3. ^ Photo
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2011-02-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Notre Dame, Central Falls, Rhode Island, USA
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Pound, Richard W. (2005). 'Fitzhenry and Whiteside Book of Canadian Facts and Dates'. Fitzhenry and Whiteside.
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ Ulysses Travel Guide, Quebec
  9. ^ Government of Canada Announces New National Historic Designations, Parks Canada news release, January 12, 2018

Further readingEdit

  • 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 linksEdit