At this year’s 14th Venice Architecture Biennale, a world-renowned architecture exhibition held in the Italian city, Canadian architect and philanthropist Phyllis Lambert was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. Lambert, who turned 87 earlier this year, was recognized for her contributions to the field and her inimitable impact on cityscapes across North America.
To celebrate her recent win, we’re taking a look back at Lambert’s biggest accomplishments and explore why the Montreal native is truly deserving of the coveted award.
Established by Lambert in 1979, Heritage Montreal focuses its efforts on preserving the city’s architectural legacy and traditional urban landscape. The non-profit strives for heritage protection on five different fronts — commemorative, archeological, architectural, landscape and ecological.
Heritage Montreal was instrumental in stopping demolition plans in Milton Parc (pictured above) that would have otherwise disfigured the neighbourhood’s historical character. The community now remains intact and currently serves as a major university hub, thanks in large part to Lambert.
The Canadian Centre for Architecture
Lambert was responsible for founding the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in the same year as Heritage Montreal. The mission of the CCA is to drive innovation and advancements for the future of architecture while also celebrating the field’s rich past.
The CCA houses both an international research centre and museum which also features an impressive research library.
As the director of planning of the Seagram Building, Lambert was a pivotal force in creating the first truly modern glass and metal skyscraper in New York. By commissioning architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to design the building, both Lambert and van der Rohe helped bring the Bauhaus’ brand of “skin and bones” modernist architecture to the Big Apple.
Completed in 1958, The Seagram Building now stands as an icon on the New York skyline. A skyscraper that spurred the creation of many more similar structures, the Toronto Dominion Centre in the city’s Financial District was also designed by van der Rohe after Lambert recommended him for the project.
Segal Centre for Performing Arts
Lambert was also behind the design of the Segal Centre for Performing Arts in Montreal. The centre has stood as one of the city’s premier cultural centres for over 40 years.
Biltmore Hotel renovation
Lambert received the National Honor Award of the American Institute of Architects for her role in designing the Biltmore Hotel renovation in downtown Los Angeles.
Capturing Lambert’s enduring impact on the field of architecture in a short piece is near impossible. Rather, we just wanted to acquaint readers with the highlights. For those keen on reading more on the architect, we recommend you pick up her book Building Seagram.