Louis-Joseph Perron, born the seventeenth of eighteen children to a farming family in Quebec, acquired an extensive knowledge of plants in his early years, by working in his brother Wilfred’s thriving nursery, W. H. Perron et Cie. Ltée. Wilfred encouraged him to study at Cornell University, where Louis early demonstrated his gifts for design and planning: in his third year, his multi-disciplinary team beat 22 other teams to win the prestigious Rome Collaborative Prize.
In 1937, as the first Francophone university-trained landscape architect in the province, Perron first took on garden projects in Montreal. He was, writes Ronald Williams in Landscape Architecture in Canada, “a master of floral composition” who composed with a broad palette, often creating plant lists of a hundred varieties or more. The Jardin Jeanne-d’Arc on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City is “a masterpiece …an English floral garden within a French composition.”
Perron’s practice rapidly expanded, and his impressive catalogue grew to include over 1200 residential and commercial properties. For a decade from 1952-62, he taught at École des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, moving thereafter to McGill and lobbying heavily to establish a French language university-level LA program, which was ultimately established at the University of Montréal in 1968. Perron was a man of vision who broadened the range of the profession. He was a pioneering advocate of urban planning, an early proponent of the urgent need to protect the environment and a keen supporter of professional associations. (He was President of both the CSLA and AAPQ, and a Fellow of the ASLA.)
For Expo ’67 in Montréal, Perron designed the famous Rose Garden and Sculpture Garden. For the Montreal Olympic Games (1976), he prepared landscape plans for the equestrian competition in Bromont. His vast portfolio includes some 550 parks and playgrounds, 3 university campuses, and 10 golf clubs. (He loved to golf.)
It was a great pleasure, Perron said, to find his work wherever he went in Quebec, but his colleague, CSLA Fellow Benoit Bégin, noted that Perron was content to let others judge his work. “Hundreds of magnificent sites now salute this modest, attentive, sensitive man,” said Bégin.
Upon his death in 1982, he left half of his estate to the CSLA, and donated all of his portfolio to the University of Montréal and the Archives nationales du Québec.
About the Photographs:
1. Louis Perron, from an office brochure, c.1970 Courtesy Ron Williams. (Reproduced from “The Canadian Landscape Architect”, Spring 1960.)
2. Jardin Jeanne-d’Arc, The National Battlefields Commission, Government of Canada reproduction, ccbn-nbc.gc.ca
3. Linda Dicaire, Benoit Bégin, Louis Perron (in the white suit), taken at the 50-year anniversary meeting of the CSLA 1984. Courtesy Ron Williams.