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Atelier Big City / Cormier, Cohen, Davies, architects

Atelier Big City (Anne Cormier, Randy Cohen, Howard Davies) was established in Montreal in 1987. The group’s name as well as their slogan “Make Architecture a Public Policy” reflects a commitment to exploring work that is based on an informed understanding of the city as an ongoing project rich in ideas and untapped potential. Atelier Big City is known for its innovative and often gregarious approach to architectural design. Completed work demonstrates the group’s desire to build provocatively yet also deal sensitively with issues related to site organization, construction, program, and budget. The work of Big City, both built and unbuilt converts restrictions and limitations into results that celebrates the latent potential and optimism of everyday life. The projects are structured on a strong conceptual approach based on the interpretation of program and siting strategies. Of particular interest to the group is the notion of public space in buildings and the importance of the architectural promenade, a spatial journey animated by relations established between elements of the program, and between the built project and its environment. Each project is an exploration in generating an architectural milieu of grand sensual stimulation using very simple means: color, volume, material and structure. The work of Atelier Big City explores the potential for the creation of spaces in which the various themes of movement, structure, function, materiality, and form are dynamically employed. Atelier Big City has pursued design work founded upon a re-interpretation of the built urban landscape, investigating through the re-configuring of urban typologies, material assemblage, programmatic combinations, and a desire to blur the limits between architectural space, and landscape. There is a desire for the playful, to be able to climb on, to walk on architecture. The form of the city is seen as accumulative, without beginning nor end, it is constant manipulation.

Atelier Big City has received a number of awards and honors in architectural design, urban integration and landscape design. These include the grand prize of the Order of Architects of Quebec in 1994 for their Interpretation Centre in Pabos, Québec, the Prix de Rome in 1998, a Governor general’s medal in 2006 for their innovative urban housing U2. The same project later won a prize for architectural integration awarded by the city of Montreal in 2008. In 2006 the group was selected for the Landscape architecture award from the Institute de Design Montréal. More recently the group received to awards from Canadian Architect magazine for the Cultural Centre of NDG and the “U” (prizes in design excellence) In 2016 the group received an award for the “Sept-Plex” (Grand Prix de Design).

Work by Atelier Big City have been exhibited and presented through lectures in North America, Asia and in Europe. The group are firm supporters of architectural competitions. The members of the group are also committed educators.


Randall Cohen, MOAQ

Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Randy Cohen is a graduate of Montreal’s McGill University (B.Sc.Arch. et B.Arch., 1978-82), and of the Architectural Association of London (Graduate Diploma in Architectural Theory, Architectural Association of London, 1985-86). He is a member of the Quebec Order of Architects since 1991. He has taught at the University of Quebec in Montréal since 1989 and at Université de Montréal since 1990.


Anne Cormier, MOAQ, MIRAC

Anne Cormier is a co-founder of Atelier Big City. She has a professional bachelor’s degree in architecture from McGill University (1982) and a Certificat d’études approfondies en architecture urbaine from the Unité Pédagogique d’Architecture Paris-Villemin (1987). Professor at the School of Architecture at Université de Montréal, where she has served as director from 2007 to 2015, she is affiliated with the Laboratoire d’étude de l’architecture potentielle (LEAP), an inter-university group dedicated to research on the design process in architecture. She was a member of the National Capital Commission’s Advisory Committee on Planning, Design and Realty in Ottawa from 2008 to 2020. She received the UBC Margolese National Design for Living Prize in 2017.

Howard Davies, MOAQ

Howard Davies is a graduate of McGill University ((B.Sc.Arch. et B.Arch., 1978-83). He is a member of the Ordre des Architectes du Quebec since 1991. He has been teaching at McGill University since 1987, where he was named the “Clifford C.F. Wong Professor of Practice” in 2016. He has been instrumental in developing Global studios in both China and Israel. He has also taught in the Department of Design and Computational Arts and in the Department of Cinema at Concordia University since 1991.

the team 2003-2008

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