Cornelia Hahn Oberlander
2015 Winner of the Margolese Prize
Photo: Yoshihiro Makino
Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, CC, MBCSLA, FCSLA, FASLA
Cornelia Hahn Oberlander has been creating innovative landscapes for more than 60 years, often through wide-ranging collaborations with internationally acclaimed architects, such as Arthur Erickson, Moshe Safdie, and Renzo Piano. She devoted her early professional years to designing landscapes for low-cost housing projects both in Canada and the U.S. (in Philadelphia, with Louis Kahn), and playgrounds throughout Canada. Among her most noted designs are the iconic landscapes of the UBC Museum of Anthropology, Robson Square in Vancouver, Ottawa’s National Gallery, the Canadian Chancery in Washington, DC, and the New York Times building courtyard (with HMWhite) in New York City.
Oberlander’s landscape designs are breathtaking, poetic, unforgettable, charged with meaning, and above all, Modernist. Her interests draw on technical, ecological, symbolic, and artistic practices in a range of scales, from the entire planet to tiny neighbourhood parks. It is hard to imagine a living architect, planner, or landscape architect in Canada whose profile could compare to hers. Cornelia Hahn Oberlander is as close as we get to a household name in landscape architecture. She is, quite frankly, a national treasure.2015 Selection Committee
Oberlander has been recognized globally for her exemplary work. She has received 12 honorary degrees, and was appointed a 2017 Companion of the Order of Canada, after being appointed an Officer in 2009 and a Member in 1990. Her many honours include the 1995 Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Allied Medal, and the 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects. In 2011, she was honoured with both the RAIC Prix du XXe siècle and the IFLA Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe Award, the International Federation of Landscape Architects’ premier award. Further honours include the 2012 ASLA Medal, the American Society of Landscape Architects’ most prestigious award, and the inaugural Governor General’s Medal in Landscape Architecture in 2016.
In 2019, Washington, DC-based non-profit The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) launched the biennial Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize, which includes a US$100,000 award and two years of public engagement activities.
My take on landscape for climate change is as follows: If the landscape is designed and well-structured with plants that are indigenous for the area, nothing can go wrong. That is what I’m now showing people.Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, Ottawa Citizen