The Cultural Landscape Foundation Announces Cornelia Hahn Oberlander Is the Namesake of the New International Landscape Architecture Prize

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The Cultural Landscape Foundation Announces Cornelia Hahn Oberlander Is the Namesake of the New International Landscape Architecture Prize

The Cultural Landscape Foundation Announces Cornelia Hahn Oberlander Is the Namesake of the New International Landscape Architecture Prize
Sep 30, 2019

Media Contact: Nord Wennerstrom | T: 202.483.0553  | M: 202.225.7076 | E: nord@tclf.org


Campaign for 100 Women, who will commit $10,000 each, seeks to raise $1 million to help endow the Prize

New York, N.Y. (October 1, 2019)– Today The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), a non-profit, Washington, D.C.-based education and advocacy organization, announced that the influential, widely respected, and award-winning Canadian landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander is the namesake of a recently established international landscape architecture prize.The Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize (“Oberlander Prize”), which will be conferred biennially beginning in 2021, is the first and only international landscape architecture prize that includes a US$100,000 award, along with two years of public engagement activities.  The naming announcement was made at an event at the Consulate General of Canada in New York City.

Based in Vancouver, B.C., the 98-year-old Oberlander has been in practice for more that 70 years. Her notable projects include the New York Times building courtyard (with HMWhite), the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, the Canadian Chancery in Washington, D.C., the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Canadian Embassy in Berlin, and Robson Square and the Public Library, both in Vancouver, and many others.  Oberlander has worked on public housing in the United States and Canada, pioneered playground design with the Children’s Creative Center at Montreal's Expo ’67 (and designed 70 other playgrounds), was an early champion of green roofs, and for decades has advocated for landscape architecture’s leading role in addressing environmental, ecological, and social issues and the impact of climate change.

Oberlander is held in high regard both within and beyond her profession, as is reflected in the early results of a campaign to raise $1 million to help endow the Oberlander Prize, with commitments of $10,000 each from and/or on behalf of 100 women, part of a broader campaign to raise $4.5 million. The 100 Women Campaign launched in July 2019 and to date more than $700,000 has been raised. The 100 Women Campaign website includes information about each of the contributing women.

“It was the consensus of the Prize Advisory Committee, which helped shaped the Prize, and TCLF’s Board of Directors that Cornelia Oberlander’s inspiring and trailblazing career in the field of landscape architecture exemplifies the critical values and ideals of the Prize, and that she is someone who embodies the Prize criteria of creativity, courage, and vision,” said Charles A. Birnbaum, TCLF’s President & CEO. 

In tandem with the naming of the Prize, all of Oberlander’s publicly accessible works are being added to TCLF’s What’s Out There landscape database; on June 20, 2021, the centennial of Oberlander’s birth, TCLF will host a What’s Out There Weekend of free, expert-led tours of Oberlander’s landscapes in the United States, Canada, and Germany; and an update to TCLF’s 2008 Pioneers Oral History with Oberlander has been produced. More public engagement events will be announced later.

About Cornelia Hahn Oberlander

Cornelia Hahn was born in Muelheim-Ruhr, Germany, on June 20, 1921.  Her mother, Beate, was a professional horticulturalist and author, and her father, Franz, was an engineer; he died in an avalanche in 1933.  In 1938, two weeks after Kristallnacht, the Hahn family escaped Nazi Germany and immigrated to the United States. She earned a diploma from Smith College in 1944 and continued her studies at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, graduating in 1947 with a B.L.A. As a recent graduate, Oberlander worked briefly for landscape architect James Rose. In 1950 she moved to Philadelphia to serve as a community planner for the Citizens’ Council on City Planning. She was enlisted by architect Oskar Stonorov to work on his Schuylkill Falls public housing project in 1952, with Dan Kiley serving as senior landscape architect. Oberlander went to work for Kiley in Vermont, where she also collaborated with Louis Kahn on Philadelphia’s Millcreek housing project.

In 1953 Oberlander moved to Vancouver, Canada, with her husband H. Peter Oberlander, an architect and city planner she met at Harvard. She established her own design firm and became known for her collaborative, socially responsible, and environmentally thoughtful work. Her influential playground, the Children’s Creative Center at Montreal's Expo ’67, led her to assist in drafting national guidelines for children’s playgrounds and the design of 70 playgrounds. Robson Square and the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology are two of her dozens of collaborations with architect Arthur Erickson. Oberlander has been named a Fellow of both the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CSLA) and the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). In 2013 she was awarded the ASLA Medal, the society’s highest honor. In 2016 she was the inaugural recipient of the Governor General’s Medal in Landscape Architecture, and in 2017 became a Companion of the Order of Canada, the highest level of the Order of Canada. 

Oberlander is the subject of the 2014 biography Cornelia Hahn Oberlander: Making the Modern Landscape, by Susan Herrington. She is also one of the subjects of “City Dreamers,” a feature documentary by Joseph Hillel, that will have its U.S. premiere at the ADFF - Architecture and Design Film Festival in New York on October 20, 2019. The documentary producer’s note: “City Dreamers is a film about our changing urban environment and four trailblazing women who have been working, observing and thinking about the transformations shaping the cities of today and tomorrow for over 70 years. In the course of their inspiring careers, landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander and architects Phyllis Lambert, Blanche Lemco van Ginkel and Denise Scott Brown have worked with some of the greatest architects of our time and have left an indelible mark on several cities across North America and Europe.” Oberlander’s archives are located at the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

About the Oberlander Prize

On August 13, 2019, TCLF announced the creation of the International Landscape Architecture Prize, the first and only prize for landscape architecture that includes a US$100,000 award. The inaugural biennial Oberlander Prize will be awarded in 2021 to a living practitioner, collaborative, or team for their creative, courageous, and visionary work in the field of landscape architecture.

Landscape architects, artists, architects, planners, urban designers, and others who have designed a significant body of landscape-architectural projects are eligible for this award. The Oberlander Prize will examine the state of landscape architecture through the honoree’s practice, showcasing how landscape architecture and its practitioners are transforming the public realm by addressing social, ecological, cultural, environmental, and other challenges in their work. 

TCLF board co-chair Joan Shafran and her husband Rob Haimes have generously provided a lead gift of US$1 million to underwrite the Oberlander Prize, which was collectively matched by the rest of the board and other donors, launching a US$4.5 million fundraising campaign to endow it in perpetuity. The Prize will be overseen by an independent curator and jury and administered by TCLF. The jury members and curator will be announced in the coming months.

Additional Resources

About The Cultural Landscape Foundation

The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) is a Washington, D.C.-based education and advocacy non-profit established in 1998 with a mission of “connecting people to places.” The organization educates and engages the public to make our landscape heritage more visible, identify its value, and empower its stewards. The Oberlander Prize will become TCLF’s fourth major program, along with: What’s Out There, an exhaustive, carefully vetted, and profusely illustrated database of more than 2,000 landscapes; Pioneers of American Landscape Design, featuring online and print biographies of more than 1,000 landscape architects and allied professionals, along with video oral histories; and Landslide, the advocacy initiative that draws attention to threatened and at-risk landscapes and includes an annual thematic report and traveling photographic exhibitions. TCLF also organizes conferences, tours, and other events, and its work has received numerous awards, as well as repeated support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Image credit: Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, Sonoma, CA, 2007. Photo © Charles A. Birnbaum, courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation

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