Cornelia Hahn Oberlander has become the first Canadian to be named as a Distinguished Member of the International Honor Society of Landscape Architecture, Sigma Lambda Alpha. At 98, the pioneering Canadian landscape architect is getting her place on the Mount Rushmore of her profession.
The society consists of chapters at universities offering landscape architecture programs and is based in the U.S.A.
Cornelia was co-nominated this year by Robert Corry, a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Guelph, which hosts the group’s sole Canadian chapter, and by Robert Brown, University Professor Emeritus at the University of Guelph and a professor of landscape architecture at Texas A&M University.
Corry was thrilled to learn that the Vancouver-based practitioner had been chosen, saying that the recognition puts her in the company of celebrated landscape architects like Garrett Eckbo, Roberto Burle-Marx, and Bill Johnson.
“It’s like getting your face on the Mount Rushmore of landscape architecture. Cornelia has her place among other legends,” said the U of G professor, explaining that Oberlander has influenced numerous landscape architects and students across Canada.
“This honour recognizes her as one of the best landscape architects in the world.”
Oberlander will be recognized for her 70-year record of landscape projects in North America as well as her scholarly activities, including writing national playground guidelines that helped shape the design of dozens of naturalistic children’s playspaces across Canada.
She will receive the award during a Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CSLA) Congress in Vancouver on May 7. She’s among only a handful of women to gain Distinguished Member status since the award was established in 1979.
Known for considering humanity and ecology and for integrating landscape andarchitecture in her work, Oberlander has received numerous international accolades and Canadian honorary degrees, including one from the University of Guelph in 2015. A Companion of the Order of Canada, she was the inaugural recipient of the Governor General’s Medal in Landscape Architecture in 2016.