Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA)

One of Phyllis Lambert’s most important accomplishments has been as the director of the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), a world-class museum and research centre in Montreal. Founded by Lambert in 1979, the CCA aims to preserve architectural heritage and holds extensive collections of architectural drawings, books, photographs and archival materials. The CCA building, designed by Peter Rose with Lambert as consulting architect and completed in 1989, preserved and incorporated Shaugnessy House, a historic Montreal mansion rescued by Lambert. Together with its gardens, the largest of which was designed by Melvin Charney, the CCA helped revive a decaying urban area.  

On 1 March 1999, Lambert retired as director of the Canadian Centre for Architecture but continued as chair of the board of trustees and as an active member of the acquisitions committee.

Advocacy and Publications

Over the course of her career, Phyllis Lambert has initiated a number of architecture/preservation-related projects and publications, including Court House: A Photographic Document; Photography and Architecture: 1839–1939; Opening the Gates of Eighteenth-Century Montréal; and Fortifications and the Synagogue: The Fortress of Babylon and the Ben Ezra Synagogue, Cairo (completed in 1991).

A significant architectural publication that Lambert authored, Mies in America (2001), came out of an exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The text brings to light the leadership required to create contextual and relevant architecture. In 1998, Lambert announced the International Federation for the CCA Prize, a $100,000 international prize to encourage new contributions in urban design.

Academic Positions

Lambert held a series of academic appointments at: the Illinois Institute of Technology; Princeton University’s School of Architecture; Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design; the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Architecture; McGill University’s School of Architecture; the Université de Montréal’s Faculté de l’aménagement; the Institue for Advanced Study at Princeton University (1986); Edinburgh University’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (1991); and New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. Lambert also served as chair of Columbia University’s Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture.


Phyllis Lambert was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1985, an Officer in 1990 and a Companion in 2001. She is an Officer of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de France, a Grand Officer of the Ordre national du Québec, and a recipient of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Gold Medal.

Lambert was granted the Vincent Scully Prize by the National Building Museum in 2006. A film about her life and work, Citizen Lambert: Joan of Architecture, directed by Teri Wehn-Damisch, was released in 2007. She was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale for Architecture (2014), the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Wolf Prize in Arts (2016) from the Wolf Foundation in Israel.

Legacy and Significance

Phyllis Lambert has been an advocate for urban renewal, urban conservation, conscious city building and the cultural importance of architecture. By promoting architecture as art, Lambert changed the way architects are seen and the way that they work. By engaging architects and the public in conversations about the value of architecture, Lambert has helped make the subject of architecture an important civic concern.


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