Remembering Melvin Charney

The Canadian Centre for Architecture is holding a panel discussion in tribute to the life and prolific work of the late artist-architect Melvin Charney, who passed away on Sept 17. Moderated by Phyllis Lambert, the event features many notable guests and takes place Wed., Jan. 23, at 6 p.m. at the Paul Desmarais Theatre. Admission is free.

The evening offers an opportunity to interpret Charney’s unique approach to the nexus of art and architecture and to discuss the importance and influence of his various projects in cities around the world. These comprise his proposal for the Canadian pavilion for the Osaka World Fair in 1970, which earned him international recognition, and later works such as his sculpture, Canadian Tribute to Human Rights in Ottawa. Participants in this unique event include former Dean of the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto, George Baird, also partner at the Toronto-based architecture and urban design firm, Baird Sampson Neuert Architects; Serge Carreau, architect and urban planner with a long involvement in both the School of Architecture at Université de Montréal and the Planning Office of the City of Montréal; the French architect and academic Odile Decq; Alan J. Knight, Associate Professor of the Université de Montréal School of Architecture; and Gwendolyn Owens, Consulting Curator in the development and management of the Gordon Matta-Clark Archive at the CCA.

Melvin Charney designed the CCA’s iconic Sculpture Garden and was a longstanding friend of the institution. Since his death, CCA founding director and chair of the Board of Trustees Phyllis Lambert has emphasized the immense importance of Charney’s work in art and contemporary architecture: “He had a gift for creating a vibrant fusion of disciplines encapsulating the essence of the urban environment.”

A native of Montreal, Charney studied architecture at McGill and Yale University before moving to work for different firms 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. He received the Prix Borduas from the government of Québec (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 also chosen to represent Canada at the Venice Biennale both in art and architecture (1986 and 2000).