Why Claude Cormier’s Berczy Park is the Best Public Space in Toronto
A park can be a place where all the people of a city come together. Or it can sort us into different tribes: the dog people, the parents with kids, the tourists snapping photos.
At Berczy Park, however, everyone comes together around a grand cast-iron fountain. It is patterned after a late-19th-century design but ornamented with dog heads, collar studs, and 27 full-colour hand–sculpted canines whose mouths spout water back into the basin. Oh, and one cat.
This spectacle is the work of Claude Cormier and Associates, landscape architects who redesigned this under–utilized, pie-shaped park at Front and Church Streets last year. “I think the park is now being used as we intended it to be,” Claude Cormier says from his Montreal office. “People are aware of their surroundings. They’re relaxing, they’re sitting, they’re looking at things, they’re looking at people.”
That’s the idea. Cormier’s designs, including Sugar Beach on the waterfront, blend an expert knowledge of tree and plant species with rigorous architectural detailing and, above all, insights about what makes a park successful. Comfortable seating. Shade. A variety of textures. Paving that provides visual interest.
And, within the landscape, something to think about. Cormier, who founded his firm in 1995, once worked in the Massachusetts office of Martha Schwartz, a landscape architect who “[proved] that it was possible to take references from culture and not just from nature. He’s done that expertly ever since – creating places that bring us in touch with the environment but remain distinctly man-made. He will continue this tradition with Love Park, his competition-winning design for a new green space on the waterfront.
Meanwhile, back at Berczy Park, the daily ballet of flâneurs, toddlers and canines continues. All the tribes of the city come together here.
Originally published in our Designer of the Year 2019 issue as “Best Public Space.” Click here to see all the winners.