Presented to: Cornelia Hahn Oberlander

Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, May 21, 2008 It's no surprise that green is her favourite colour. Renowned for injecting an ecological sensibility into concrete jungles and urban rooftops, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander is one of North America's greenest and most innovative landscape architects. These green dreams began during childhood in Germany in the 1930s, long before the likes of Al Gore were sounding any environmental alarm bells. Her mother was a horticulturist who wrote gardening books for children. While having her portrait painted at age 11 as per family tradition, young Cornelia found her muse when she learned the green bits on the artists canvas represented parkland. From that moment, she knew she would create outdoor spaces where city dwellers could enjoy the natural world. Sustainable, healthy design is at the heart of our planning and architecture programs here at Dalhousie, so it's fitting for us today to honour a true pioneer in the field. Indeed, after her family immigrated to America, she was one of the first women to graduate from Harvard Universitys School of Design. She launched her own firm 58 years ago and made her mark with imaginative playgrounds such as the Children's Creative Centre for EXPO '67 in Montreal, which led her to assist in drafting national guidelines for children's play areas. Throughout her career, Mrs. Oberlander has collaborated with such leading architects as Renzo Piano and Moshe Safdie. Her Robson Square development in Vancouver, with Arthur Erickson, was a turning point in a profession she likes to call the art of the possible. Rooftop gardens were unheard of in 1974, yet she put an entire park atop the Provincial Government Complex and Courthouse, transforming the site into a serene urban oasis spanning three city blocks. Her countless other eco-conscious projects include gardens at the National Gallery of Canada, which evoke the art collection within, a roof garden with rainwater cisterns at the new Canadian Embassy in Berlin, and hanging gardens at the Canadian Chancery in Washington, D.C., which earned her the National Landscape Award, presented at the White House. Refreshingly minimalist, Mrs. Oberlanders designs respect and enhance the existing landscape, blending indigenous plant life into the social, architectural and resource requirements for each space. The meadows at UBCs Museum of Anthropology, for example, feature plants used by ancient aboriginal peoples for food and medicine. Through her volunteer work with the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, she has lobbied the government to create more national parks and raised environmental awareness within her profession. She is a strong advocate for collaboration and multidisciplinary approaches among planners, architects, engineers, city officials and communities. Her many honours include the Order of Canada, a commemorative medal for the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada, and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Allied Medal. Mrs. Oberlander recently earned the merit award of the American Society of Landscape Architects, for microclimate studies at the New York Times Building that pinpoint the best spots for plants, trees and seating according to lighting and wind patterns. For her remarkable vision and achievements in landscape architecture, and her deep commitment to promoting environmental sustainability and quality of life through healthy design, I ask you, Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of Senate, to award Cornelia Hahn Oberlander the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.


May 21, 2008




May 28, 2008






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