The Oberlander Prize

John Hill
1. October 2019
Cornelia Hahn Oberlander (Photo: Screenshot from TCLF film on the Oberlander Prize)

The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) has revealed that the $100,000 International Landscape Architecture Prize it announced in August will be named for "the Dean of Canadian landscape architects," Cornelia Hahn Oberlander.

The Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize — or Oberlander Prize for short — will be given every two years beginning in 2021. The $100,000 USD award will recognize "a living practitioner, collaborative or team for their creative, courageous, and visionary work in the field of landscape architecture." 

The Prize Advisory Committee created to administer the prize said, in the words of TCLF President and CEO Charles Birnbaum, that "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."

Born in Germany but based in Vancouver, British Columbia, since 1953, the 98-year-old Oberlander is known for many projects in her home country, including the Museum of Anthropology and Robson Square in Vancouver and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, as well as the Canadian Chancery in Washington, DC, the Canadian Embassy in Berlin, and other projects outside of Canada. Oberlander has been a vocal proponent for the increased role of landscape architects in addressing climate change and related environmental, ecological, and social issues this century.

Robson Square, Vancouver, with Arthur Erickson, 1978 (Photo: Screenshot from TCLF film on the Oberlander Prize)
A statement from Cornelia Hahn Oberlander:

On July 1, 2019, Charles A. Birnbaum ... visited me at my home in Vancouver to tell me that I would be the namesake of a new international landscape architecture prize – the first prize of its kind that includes a US$100,000 award.

I told him: "I am overwhelmed and smitten."

But, more importantly, I told him that I hope the Oberlander Prize will spur landscape architects to innovate, be inventive and generate new ideas, and to be leaders in their community. Landscape architecture is ideally suited to deal with the environmental, social and ecological challenges we face now and the challenges we must plan for in the future. Landscape architects are a combination of artists, designers, choreographers, and scientists; they must also be leaders, especially in dealing with the effects of climate change. Through careful research, innovation, collaboration with allied professionals, and design excellence, landscape architecture can become a global leader in addressing the important issues we all face.

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