Queer Identity & the Aesthetics of Landscape Design

A Tribute to Claude Cormier

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3_Berczy-Park_Toronto@INDUSTRYOUS-Photography · Queer Identity & the Aesthetics of Landscape Design
Berczy Park, Toronto by Claude Cormier et Associés. Photography by Industryous Photography.
Sami Sikanas
14 Jun 2024 All, Research, News

I was first introduced to Claude Cormier + Associés (now CCxA) as a graduate student seeking examples of myself represented in the field of landscape architecture. I was, and continue to be, inspired by Claude, a visibly queer person, and his team’s portfolio of work. Their projects spoke to me, but I wasn’t quite sure what the connection was: Why pink? Why so funny, so fun? I began researching the connection between queer identity and the aesthetics of landscape design, which has since turned into my independent research project Queer Landscapes

Pink Balls, Montreal by Claude Cormier et Associés. Photography by Marc Cramer.


What are “Queer Landscapes?” Or even taken at its parts, what is “Queer” and what are “Landscapes?” Both words have multiple meanings, and together they multiply in their complexity. “Queer landscapes” have been tangentially discussed in terms of gendered and political space, or in terms of spaces that cater to queer communities, like parks, bathhouses, and bars, where subcultures can gather, socialize, and, often, cruise, in the otherwise straight world around them. These discussions often ignore any discussion of the style or aesthetics employed in the actual design of these spaces, especially when it comes to landscape. Architectural form is sometimes identified as queer (an example of such work is the book Stud: Architectures of Masculinity, edited by architect Joel Sanders, which includes essays from Lee Edelman, D.A. Miller, and George Chauncey, all queer theorists), but queer landscapes are overlooked

Palais des congres de Montreal by Claude Cormier et Associés. Photography by jmb22 via Flickr.

Queer theory teaches us about camp - “a style or mode of personal or creative expression that is absurdly exaggerated and often fuses elements of high and popular culture.” Camp principles have been applied to fashion, architecture, film, art—naturally one could apply them to landscapes as well. Queer landscapes can be campy because they can situate unexpected elements into the landscape, they can create incongruities that often subvert the norm, and they can use humor.

Love Park, Toronto by Claude Cormier et Associés. Image Courtesy of CCxA.

When I see Claude’s work, I see camp–I see his queerness being expressed in the way he designs. Examples are plentiful: Lipstick Forest, Pink Balls, Sugar Beach, Berczy Park, Love Park, the list goes on. They’re all unapologetically fun, as exemplified with his book titled Serious Fun. We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of Claude’s passing, and this pride month, I’m reminded of him and his fearless approach to design. As a trans woman in the field, I aspire to be as fearless as him.



Check out Serious Fun – Oro Editions – Publishers of Architecture, Art, and Design


Check out CCxA's portfolio of work: CCxA - Landscape Architecture and Urban Design


Check out Sami's independent research project: Queer Landscapes

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