Canadian landscape architecture icon Cornelia Oberlander has died at the age of 99. A leader in sustainable design, a pioneer of green roofs, she was in practice for more than 70 years based in Vancouver, B.C.
Her notable projects include the New York Times building courtyard (with HMWhite), the Canadian Chancery in Washington, D.C., the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Canadian Embassy in Berlin, and numerous projects in Vancouver.
Vancouver residents and visitors continue to benefit from Oberlander’s dream of ‘green cities’ that infuse rural and urban harmony.
Her contributions to Vancouver’s public spaces include iconic logs as seating on our public beaches (1963), Robson Square (1983), the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch rooftop garden (1995), and the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre (2011). She also designed landscapes for the Vancouver General Hospital burn unit garden, and UBC’s Museum of Anthropology and the C. K. Choi Building.
Oberlander also made her mark nationally and internationally. She designed landscapes for non-market housing and playgrounds across the country, and helped draft national guidelines for the creation of play spaces in Canada.
She was a highly-decorated, award-winning design professional whose influence has earned her the ranking of Companion of the Order of Canada, the highest level of the Order of Canada.
Oberlander’s passing comes after Vancouver City Council voted to bestow her posthumously with the prestigious Freedom of the City Award, which recognizes “individuals who have gained national or international acclaim in their field and brought recognition to Vancouver through their work.”
“Cornelia Oberlander was one of Vancouver’s most renowned Jewish residents, and during Jewish Heritage Month this May, we honour her outstanding accomplishments in bringing world-class landscape design to Canada, and to Vancouver in particular,” said Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “On behalf of council, I extend my deepest sympathies to her family and friends. May her memory be a blessing.”
A funeral was held at the Temple Sholom Cemetery in Vancouver, which she designed, on Monday May 24, 2021. A video of the service is available online.