November 2, 2015
by Canadian Architect
Cornelia Hahn Oberlander
The School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of British Columbia announces landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander the winner of the 2015 Margolese National Design for Living Prize. This unrestricted $50,000 annual prize recognizes a Canadian who has made and continues to make outstanding contributions to the development or improvement of living environments for Canadians of all economic classes. It was created by a generous estate gift to the University by Leonard Herbert Margolese.
This award recognizes Cornelia as one of the world’s leading landscape architects who, over the past 60 years, has collaborated with internationally acclaimed architects on a wide range of projects around the world. She devoted her early professional years to designing landscapes for low-cost housing projects and playgrounds throughout Canada. She has also designed the iconic landscapes of the UBC Museum of Anthropology, Robson Square in Vancouver and Ottawa’s National Gallery.
A national Margolese Prize jury praised her landscape designs as “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 Oberlander’s. Figures in other fields who might have similar impact are perhaps Alice Munro for literature, the late Glenn Gould or perhaps Joni Mitchell for music, Leonard Cohen for poetry, the late Emily Carr for painting. Cornelia Oberlander is as close as we get to a household name in landscape architecture. She is, quite frankly, a national treasure.”
In addition to the Margolese Prize, Cornelia has been recognized with 12 honorary degrees and was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada in 2009. She was awarded the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Allied Arts Medal in 1995, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects in 2006, the Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe Award (the International Federation of Landscape Architects’ premier award) in 2011, and the ASLA Medal (the most prestigious award by the American Society of Landscape Architects) in 2012.
She plans to use the Margolese Prize to further her work greening the city.