Award-Winning Design

$100,000 landscape architecture prize named after Cornelia Hahn Oberlander

The Canadian landscape architect has over 70 years of experience. (Courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation)

The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) announced today that Canadian landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander has been chosen as the namesake of its new international prize. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit first introduced the biennial award, now dubbed the Oberlander Prize, back in August as the first and only one of its kind to provide a $100,000 award for landscape architects.

Currently living in Vancouver, Oberlander, 98, has worked across Canada and the United States for over 70 years. Among her most notable works include the National Gallery of Canada, The New York Times Building in New York, the Canadian Chancery in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver—one of the dozens of projects where she collaborated with the late architect Arthur Erickson.

In a July meeting with TCLF president and CEO Charles A. Birnbaum, Oberlander said she was “overwhelmed and smitten” by the honor and released the following statement: 

“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.”

Oberlander is a highly-decorated, award-winning design professional whose influence most recently earned her the ranking of Companion of the Order of Canada, the highest level of the Order of Canada. Though she was born in Germany, Oberlander immigrated to the United States for a brief time to study at Smith College and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. In 1951, she became a community planner in Philadelphia, eventually working alongside Dan Kiley on both the Schuylkill Falls public housing project led by architect Oskar Stonorov and the Millcreek housing project led by Louis Kahn. 

Two years later she established her own practice in Vancouver and quickly garnered attention for her environmentally-thoughtful design. At Expo ‘67 in Montreal, she created the Children’s Creative Center, an innovative playground that led her work on 70 playground projects in her lifetime.

“It was the consensus of the Prize Advisory Committee,” said Birnbaum in a press release, “which helped shape 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.”

TCLF is in the process of raising $4.5 million to endow the prize forever and has received individual commitments of $10,000 each from donors within its 100 Women Campaign. The inaugural recipient will be announced in 2021.

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