Wachtel On The Arts - Phyllis Lambert

Eleanor Wachtel speaks to Canadian architectural activist, Phyllis Lambert, in celebration of her exceptional career on her 90th birthday. In the 1950s, she became highly involved in the construction of the landmark Seagram Building designed by Mies van der Rohe. Lambert later founded the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the world's leading museum dedicated to understanding architecture as an art form.
Phyllis Lambert (Eleanor Wachtel/CBC)
Listen to the full episode53:59
Eleanor Wachtel speaks to Canadian architectural activist, Phyllis Lambert, in celebration of her exceptional career on her 90th birthday. Phyllis Lambert's deep commitment to architecture and the city has won her international renown.  In 2014, she received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Architectural Biennale.

The Seagram Building on Park Avenue, New York City, circa 1960. (George Heyer/Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Back in the 1950s, Lambert became deeply involved in the construction of New York's landmark Seagram Building designed by Mies van der Rohe. It's often called a turning-point for modern architecture, a moment when social responsibility, beauty and truth counted for more than egotism or commercial interests. 

Lambert has dedicated herself to the conviction that architecture must express the best of society. She campaigned for social housing and saving neighbourhoods from devastation. She helped save Old Montreal, she was engaged in the Milton-Parc co-op housing renovation, the transformation of the city's historic Old Port area -- and even restoring the Ben Ezra synagogue in Cairo.  The list goes on: of action, artistic contributions, key publications, and so on.  

Perhaps most significantly, in 1979, Lambert founded the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal,  the world's leading museum dedicated to understanding architecture as an art form.  As one critic put it, "Destiny handed her a great fortune, but how she has chosen to use it makes for one of the most amazing cultural and financial sagas of our times." 


Phyllis's 90th birthday celebration. Eleanor Wachtel with Phyllis Lambert, standing beside a cut-out of Lambert and her dog in front of an image of the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

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