University of Calgary

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander receives honorary degree

Renowned landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander received an honorary degree from the University of Calgary during the morning convocation on Wednesday, June 11, in recognition of her philanthropic efforts and contributions to her field.

The University of Calgary’s honorary degree is its highest academic honour, bestowed on individuals who have demonstrated significant achievements and service to community.

Oberlander has been making a difference since her first steps as a landscape architect in the late 1940s. After emigrating with her family from Germany to the United States in 1939, Oberlander went on to become one of the first women admitted to, and to graduate from, the Harvard Graduate School of Design. This accomplishment was followed by a remarkable six-decade design career.

Her work has spanned from designing landscapes for low-income housing projects and playgrounds to collaborating on prestigious projects like the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Robson Square and the Vancouver Law Courts, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and many other recognizable public spaces.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Oberlander has engaged in philanthropic efforts throughout her career, notably with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Since 1979, she and her husband led many activities including the establishment of a Canadian Studies Program, textbook donations, developing a botanical garden for the campus, advocating for the restoration of historic buildings on the campus, and working with a planning team to support the community of Ashkalon to accommodate settlers from Georgia and North Africa.

Always approaching her projects from a sustainability standpoint, her attention to both people and the environment in her designs has been widely lauded through many awards, including induction into the Order of Canada in 1990.

The Faculty of Environmental Design, which is introducing a Master of Landscape Architecture into its programming, will host a reception and book signing at 4:00 pm on Wednesday, June 11, to celebrate Oberlander’s honorary degree. This event is open to anyone interested in attending.

A book chronicling Oberlander’s life and work has recently been published, and copies of the book, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander: Making the Modern Landscape, will be available for purchase at the reception. The author, Susan Herrington, is a professor of architecture at UBC, and will lead an interview-style presentation with Oberlander in the Professional Faculties building, room 2160, at the University of Calgary's main campus.