Letter from pioneer and visionary: Marie-Josée Lacroix

May 5, 2021

Marie-Josée Lacroix
First Montréal Design Commissioner
Bureau du design Chief of Staff, Ville de Montréal

Dear design community, thank you!

In 1991, the Ville de Montréal created the unprecedented position of design commissioner, which I applied for and obtained. My mandate? To develop the design sector in Montréal.

I certainly never imagined then that I would remain so passionate about this work for three decades, nor that I would have so much freedom to fulfil and grow this mission within a public administration.

As the first to occupy such an innovative position, everything had to be defined and built. The challenge was also to maintain and, incidentally, to constantly demonstrate the relevance and benefits of such an investment for the City. Thus, to the initial mandate of sectoral development was added the objective of urging the City to itself become an exemplary client in design and architecture. Developing a design culture—or rather a culture of quality in design—is more than anything a matter of time and teamwork. And I had both.

During all these years, I dealt with exceptional managers and elected officials who allowed me to push the envelope, to initiate and to take risks. Without their trust, nothing that has been accomplished would have happened. I am very grateful to them. I have also had the privilege of being surrounded by close colleagues with whom I shared the desire to dream, defend and complete projects, year after year.

The Bureau’s vitality and credibility, and my steadfast pleasure in this work, have undoubtedly always rested on our team and the core of outside consultants who have accompanied us over the years. And at the heart of this adventure, for 20 years there has also been an essential colleague, Béatrice Carabin, around whom the Bureau du design has been built. I owe much to all of you.

Among other achievements, together we firmly established an innovative practice of design and architecture competitions within the City, renewed the City’s status as a UNESCO City of Design since 2006, and, in December 2019, adopted the first cross-cutting municipal policy, the Montréal 2030 Agenda for Quality and Exemplarity in Design and Architecture, which equips us with the tools and guidance we need to face the critical challenges of the coming years. As we know, the climate emergency and today’s health crisis demand a redefinition of urban development and planning practices and models, the use of new processes and a different way of designing and experiencing the city.

Like other cities, Montréal must quickly reinvent itself. Teleworking, education, mobility, housing, commerce, tourism, culture, the downtown core... a profound transformation is under way and calls for international solidarity. Cooperation between countries, regions and cities takes on its full meaning and relevance here.

The strong friendships we have developed over the past 15 years within UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network will be invaluable in sharing the search for solutions and fast-tracking a responsible recovery.

To accompany its necessary transformation, now more than ever our city needs the creativity and innovative power of the design and architecture disciplines.

From now on, the work of the Bureau du design is no longer so much about raising awareness of these professions and their added value. Rather, the challenge is to create the best possible conditions for these very essential experts to contribute fully to our city’s future.

Assured of the unfailing support of Véronique Doucet, our seasoned and inspiring manager, and empowered by their great expertise and motivation, my colleagues Caroline Dubuc, Sylvie Champeau, Emeric Boucher and Patrick Marmen are undoubtedly the best people to tackle this challenge in an innovative way. I am truly pleased to entrust them with the work ahead, convinced that with them, the mission of the Ville de Montréal’s Bureau du design is destined for a bright future.