Respected Montreal architect Phyllis Lambert is stepping down from her position as chairwoman of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, an organization she founded almost 35 years ago.

Known to some as Joan of Architecture, Lambert, 86, started the architecture research and exhibition centre in 1979.

"This is so much of my life, and to have led it for 35 years, it's absolutely the right thing to do. That's what the mixture of emotion is. I think it's absolutely right, and at the same time it's a major step so you sort of sit back and look at it," says Lambert.    

Lambert is a member of the Bronfman family, former owners of the Seagram's Distillery.

Early in her career, Lambert oversaw the construction of the Seagram Building in New York, which was later hailed as a turning point in modern architecture.

In addition to her work in architecture, Lambert also established Heritage Montreal, and has received numerous awards, including the Order of Canada and the National Order of Quebec.

Lambert will remain on the CCA board as founding director emeritus.

"Change is very marking, and this is, I think, a very big marking thing for me. But I don't feel any diminishment in my interest and involvement with the CCA," says Lambert.

Toronto Architect and CCA board member Bruce Kuwabara, will take over for Lambert. 

Kuwabara has worked on a number of projects in Montreal, including buildings at Concordia and McGill, as well as the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. 

Kuwabara says he wants to broaden the subject matter for exhibits, and attract younger audiences.

"The new impulse is really to connect content with wider audiences. I think that's what's very much top of mind, without compromising in any way the quality of research or exhibitions," said Kuwabara.