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05.26.21 – Remembering renowned landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, an influential Canadian landscape architect and a Daniels Faculty visiting critic and guest lecturer, died on Saturday at age 99.

Oberlander was born in Germany, emigrated to the United States to escape Nazi persecution, then studied at Harvard University before eventually settling with her husband, architect and urban planner Peter Oberlander, in Vancouver.

Cornelia Oberlander

Cornelia Oberlander, with Alissa North (right) in 2014.

Over the course of her long career, Oberlander was instrumental in the creation of countless pioneering landscapes, many of which continue to define important public spaces in Canada. Her best known works include Vancouver's Robson Square and Law Courts complex, the Vancouver Public Library's central branch, and the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.

Oberlander collected a number of major awards and honours, including, in 2016, the inaugural Governor General's Medal in Landscape Architecture. She was a Companion of the Order of Canada, and the namesake of the Cultural Landscape Foundation's Oberlander Prize. According to the Vancouver Sun, she was posthumously awarded the city's highest honour, the Freedom of the City Award.

"Cornelia was a true leading modernist," says Alissa North, who was the Daniels Faculty's Master of Landscape Architecture director in 2014, when Oberlander was named the Faculty's Michael Hough/Ontario Association of Landscape Architects Visiting Critic. "Geometric design clarity and clear authorship were hallmarks of her work. This perfection was reflected in how she interacted with people, her ability to remember every detail, and her precision with facts."

A video of Oberlander's 2014 Michael Hough/OALA Visiting Critic Lecture is embedded above.