Cornelia Hahn Oberlander CC, OBC, MBCSLA, FCSLA, FASLA,
|Born||June 20, 1921|
|Alma mater||Smith College, Harvard|
|Awards||Order of Canada, American Society of Landscape Architects Medal, Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe Award, Governor General’s Medal in Landscape Architecture,|
|Practice||Cornelia Hahn Oberlander Landscape Architects|
|Buildings||C. K. Choi Building, Vancouver Public Library, Northwest Territories Legislative Building, Canadian Chancery in Washington, DC, National Gallery of Canada, Museum of Anthropology at UBC, Robson Square and Law Courts|
|Projects||Peacekeeping Monument, VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitors Center|
|Design||Canadian Government Pavilion, Children's Creative Centre & play area for Expo 67 in Montreal|
Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, CC OBC, MBCSLA, FCSLA, FASLA, (born 20 June 1921) is a Canadian landscape architect based in Vancouver, British Columbia. During her career she has contributed to the designs of many high-profile buildings in both Canada and the United States, including the Robson Square and Law Courts Complex in Vancouver, the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Chancery in Washington D.C., the Library Square at the Vancouver Public Library, the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, and Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly Building in Yellowknife. Her firm, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander Landscape Architects, was founded in 1953, when she moved to Vancouver.
Life & Family
Oberlander was born at Muelheim-Ruhr, Germany, on June 20, 1921. She is the niece of the German-Jewish educationalist Kurt Hahn, the founder of Schule Schloss Salem in Germany and Gordonstoun and UWC Atlantic College in the UK. In 1938, when Oberlander was 18, she and her sister and mother escaped Nazi persecution after the "Kristallnacht" [Night of Broken Glass] pogrom and fled to England, and then emigrated to the United States in 1939. Her mother, Beate Hahn, a horticulturist who wrote gardening books for children, fostered in her a deep love and appreciation for nature from a young age. Since she had a garden bed when she was four years old and planted peas and corn, she knew the joy of growing. In an interview with Mechtild Manus, tracing the roots of Oberlander's interests in landscape architecture, Oberlander stated "At the age of eleven...I studied a mural in the artist's studio showing the river Rhine and an imaginary town. When I asked the artist about the green spaces in this mural, she told me that these were parks. When I came home I told my mother 'I want to make parks.' From there all my education was directed towards becoming a landscape architect." Her mother had a truck farm during the war, in New Hampshire, which Oberlander worked on.
In 1944 Oberlander received a BA from Smith College, and in 1947 was among the first class of women to graduate from Harvard with a degree in landscape architecture. In her interview with Hall she states, "When I went to Smith, women who wanted to become landscape architects went to the Cambridge School, a part of Harvard University, because at that time, women could not attend Harvard. But with the war that changed, and in 1943 I was one of the very first women to be admitted to the Harvard Graduate School of Design." Her future husband, Peter Oberlander, received a PhD in regional planning from Harvard, and they met at a class picnic. They were married in 1953 and had three children. Peter Oberlander, a Canadian architect and Canada's first professor of Urban and Regional Planning, died on December 27, 2008.
Oberlander began work with Louis Kahn and Oscar Stonorov in Philadelphia and then with landscape architect Dan Kiley in Vermont before moving with her husband in 1953 to Vancouver, where she founded a small landscape architecture firm. In Vancouver, Oberlander became interested in the modern art movement led by Bertie Binning and Ned Pratt, which combined art and architecture to address the connections between urbanism and surrounding natural settings. In 1999-2000, she contributed her expertise to the Vancouver Art Gallery's Out of This Century exhibition, guiding patrons through the selection of visual art pieces that were chosen from the gallery's permanent collection (by Oberlander and five other Vancouverites) to reflect and represent the city's art scene through the decades.
The early years of Oberlander's career were dedicated to designing landscapes for low-income housing projects and playgrounds, the most famous of which is the Canadian Government Pavilion, Children's Creative Centre & play area for Expo 67 in Montreal. Her first playground, for a 1951 public housing project for architect Louis Kahn, included a vegetable garden and a fruit tree. In public housing in Maclean Park, she designed a playground. On Skeena Terrace, on the Lougheed Highway, she included vegetable gardens.
She now practices on a more commercial scale, working with architects and other professionals from different disciplines to create aesthetic solutions for challenging projects. Before beginning a project she researches it thoroughly to ensure that her innovative schemes will also be practical and long-lasting. Oberlander always approaches a project from an environmental standpoint, stating in her Convocation Address for the acceptance of an honorary degree from Simon Fraser University:
I dream of Green Cities with Green Buildings where rural and urban activities live in harmony.[...] "Achieving a fit" between the built form and the land has been my dictum. This can only be done if all our design-related professions collaborate and thereby demonstrate co-operatively their relevance in meeting the enormous developmental challenges facing our increasingly crowded urban regions.
Her concern for the environment and for people in general is further exemplified by her involvement with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Mount Scopus. Oberlander and her husband, Peter, visited Israel for a congress with the International Federation of Landscape Architects in 1962. According to the Jewish Independent, the Oberlanders were in Israel to study irrigation systems but they "fell more deeply in love with the land and its people." The Oberlanders engaged in and spearheaded many activities to benefit the university from 1979 on, including: setting up a Canadian Studies Program, bringing boxes of Canadian textbooks to Israel for donation to the university, developing a botanical garden, working with a team of planners to assist the community of Ashkalon in accommodating settlers from North Africa and Georgia, and advocating the restoration of historic buildings on the campus. The Oberlanders were recently honored for their contributions by the Vancouver chapter of Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2004 and have visited Israel many times in their philanthropic efforts.
Oberlander has received the "rare and exceptional honour" of being elected to both the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects' College of Fellows (in 1981) and the American Society of Landscape Architects' Council of Fellows (in 1992).
Awards and honours
- 1981, Fellow, Canadian Society of Landscape Architects
- 1990 Member of the Order of Canada
- 1991 Honorary law degree, University of British Columbia
- 1992, Fellow, American Society of Landscape Architects
- 1992 Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada
- 1995 Allied Medal, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada
- 2001 Honorary law degree, Ryerson University
- 2002 Honorary law degree, Smith College
- 2004 Honoree of Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem fundraising gala
- 2005 Honorary law degree, Simon Fraser University
- 2008 Honorary law degree, McGill University
- 2008 Honorary law degree, Dalhousie University
- 2009 Officer of the Order of Canada
- 2011 Awarded the Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe Award of the International Federation of Landscape Architects
- 2012 Awarded the American Society of Landscape Architects Medal
- 2015 Margolese National Design for Living Prize
- 2016 Inaugural recipient of the Governor General's Medal in Landscape Architecture
- 2016 Member of the Order of British Columbia
- 2017 Companion of the Order of Canada
- 2017 LAF Medal of the Landscape Architecture Foundation
Oberlander is an honorary member of the Architectural Institute of British Columbia. The Canadian Centre for Architecture held an exhibition Cornelia Hahn Oberlander: Ecological Landscapes in 2006, which featured material from the Cornelia Hahn Oberlander Archive at the CCA and photographs by Etta Gerdes. She was included in Chatelaine Magazine's Women of the year: 30 Canadians who rocked 2015 listing.
Oberlander has produced landscape designs for private residences, playgrounds, urban parks and other public spaces, as well as major projects including landscaping for:
- 70 playgrounds in Canada. Oberlander helped establish the National Task Force on Play.
- 18th & Bigler St. playground, Philadelphia
- Cherokee Apartments, Philadelphia
- Philadelphia International Airport landscape
- Smith College Master Plan, 1997
- Ottawa City Hall, with Moshe Safdie, 1989-1994
- Vancouver Park Board natural log seating on Vancouver beaches, 1964
- New York Times Building atrium which includes an evergreen carpet of sedges, ferns and several birch trees with architect Renzo Piano and HM White Site Architects, 2002
- Hebrew University of Jerusalem botanical garden, 2004
- "green rooftop" on the Canadian embassy in Berlin, with Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, 1999-2005
- C. K. Choi Building for the Institute of Asian Research at UBC, with Matsuzaki Wright Architects, 1996
- Vancouver Public Library, with Moshe Safdie Architects, 1995
- Vancouver General Hospital burn unit garden
- Northwest Territories Legislative Building, Yellowknife, with Matsuzaki/Wright Architects, 1995
- Canadian Chancery in Washington, DC, with Arthur Erickson Architects, 1989
- National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, with Moshe Safdie Architects, 1988
- Co-authored Trees in the City, with Ira Bruce Nadel and Lesley R. Bohm, 1977
- Museum of Anthropology at UBC, Vancouver, landscapes including its rear reflection pool, with Arthur Erickson Architects and Stantec Architecture, 1976 and from 2003
- Peacekeeping Monument : Reconciliation, 1992
- Robson Square stramps and Law Courts government complex in Vancouver, with Arthur Erickson Architects, 1974–1983 and from 2003
- VanDusen Botanical Garden, with architect Peter Busby, Visitors Center project, with Perkins and Will, 2011
- Herrington, Susan (2014). Cornelia Hahn Oberlander: Making the Modern Landscape. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. pp. ix, 2, 11. ISBN 978-0-8139-3459-4.
- Manus, Mechtild (2006). Bilder kanadischer Landschaftsarchitecktur/Picturing Landscape Architecture. Munchen: Callwey. pp. 60, 96. ISBN 978-3-76671-6699.
- Prominent Canadian Landscape Architect To Speak At U.Va. School Of Architecture Archived 2006-09-04 at the Wayback Machine, University of Virginia News, 9 March 2001, retrieved 2 July 2010.
- "Acclaimed landscape architect honored", Smith e-news June 2006.
- Hall, Jenny. "A Pioneer with an Eye for Innovation". Smith Alumnae Quarterly - Fall 2004. Archived from the original on 2007-04-22.
- "H. Peter Oberlander Obituary". Vancouver Sun. January 3, 2009. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
- Christensen, Layne (1999-12-27). "Architecture meets art in new exhibit". North Shore News. Archived from the original on 2003-11-29. Retrieved 2015-03-08.
- Cornelia Hahn Oberlander Archive Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine
- Oberlander, Cornelia Hahn (1966). "Space for Creative Play". Journal of Canadian Landscape Architects.
- Margolese Prize Winner Cornelia Oberlander on Landscapes, Cities and Healing Souls
- SFU honorary degree recipients' convocation addresses
- Berger, Kyle (February 13, 2004). "Honors for Oberlanders". Jewish Independent. Archived from the original on 2006-02-03.
- Canadian Society of Landscape Architects/Association des architectes paysagistes du Canada (2003). "CSLA/AAPC College of Fellows 2003 Investiture Ceremony booklet" (PDF). p. . Retrieved March 18, 2017.
- "Governor General of Canada Honours: Find a Recipient". Retrieved March 18, 2017.
- University of British Columbia. "Honorary Degrees Conferred by UBC". Retrieved March 18, 2017.
- American Society of Landscape Architects. "ASLA Fellows Database". Retrieved March 18, 2017.
- Cornelia Hahn Oberlander Archived 2016-06-03 at the Wayback Machine
- Margolese National Design for Living Prize Cornelia Hahn Oberlander
- Cornelia Hahn Oberlander receives inaugural Governor General’s Medal in Landscape Architecture
- "Order of British Columbia citation".
- Cornelia Hahn Oberlander: Ecological Landscapes Archived 2016-01-11 at the Wayback Machine
- Women of the year: 30 Canadians who rocked 2015
- Cornelia Oberlander biography[permanent dead link]
- New York Times Building, New York, New York]
- Susan Herrington. Cornelia Hahn Oberlander: Making the Modern Landscape. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-81393-459-4
- Charles A. Birnbaum and Stephanie S. Foell. Shaping the American Landscape: New Profiles from the Pioneers of American Landscape Design Project. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-81392-789-3.
- Kathy Stinson. Love Every Leaf: The Life of Landscape Architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander. Toronto: Tundra, 2008. ISBN 978-0-88776-804-0
- Mechtild Manus and Lisa Rochon. Picturing Landscape Architecture: Projects of Cornelia Hahn Oberlander as seen by Etta Gerdes. Munich: Callwey / Montreal: Goethe-Institute, 2006. ISBN 3-7667-1669-7 / 9783766716699
- Cornelia Oberlander[permanent dead link] in The Canadian Encyclopedia
- Katharine Hamer, "A home fit for King David: Architects created a space tailored to Jewish independent school"[permanent dead link], Jewish Independent, 17 February 2006.
- Cornelia Oberlander to present new park design April 1, City of Toronto, 21 March 2003.
- Waterfall Building Green Roof Case Study, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, January 2002 (pdf)
-  new link to BCSLA Web Atlas October 2013
- Library Square Building aerial view
- Cornelia Oberlander archive at the Canadian Centre for Architecture
- Charles Birnbaum "Oral history of Cornelia Hahn Oberlander" on August 3-5, 2008, Cultural History Project