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A towering figure: Melvin Charney leaves a legacy

Published: 20 Sep 2012

Next time you see a fanciful chair or temple dangling in mid-air over René Lévesque Blvd., take a moment to think about Melvin Charney.

The sculpture garden across from the Canadian Centre for Architecture is perhaps the most recognizable example of work by Charney, who died Monday. But friends, colleagues and former students say even Charney's boldest public art pieces, such as the world's first human rights monument in Ottawa or the 1992 sculpture titled Skyscraper, Waterfall, Brooks - A Construction, which dominates Place Émilie-Gamelin, offer only a glimpse of this Montreal-based artist, architect and teacher who tangled with Mayor Jean Drapeau and spoke out about everything from misguided demolition to architectural snobbery.

Born in 1935, Charney studied architecture at McGill and Yale, then worked in Paris and New York before returning to Montreal in 1964, where he opened his architecture practice and took a teaching position at U de M.

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