Vancouver landscape architecture pioneer Cornelia Oberlander dead at 99

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Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, a pioneer in the field of landscape architecture, whose outdoor designs are as ubiquitous as they are adored in her adopted home of Vancouver, died Saturday at the age of 99.

Her legacy of design includes such iconic contributions to Vancouver’s public spaces as the log seating on the city’s beaches (1963), Robson Square (1983), the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch rooftop garden (1995) and the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre (2011).

She also designed landscapes for the Vancouver General Hospital burn unit garden, UBC’s Museum of Anthropology and the C.K. Choi Building.

“Cornelia was a giant in the field of landscape architecture, an inspiring and pioneering figure known for her extraordinary creativity, courage and vision,” said Charles A. Birnbaum, president and CEO of The Cultural Landscape Foundation. “Her legacy of built work and influence demonstrates how one person can shape a profession that has global impact and importance.”

In a statement released Sunday, the City of Vancouver announced it has posthumously bestowed the Freedom of the City Award, the city’s highest honour, on Oberlander.

“Cornelia Oberlander was one of Vancouver’s most renowned Jewish residents, and during Jewish Heritage Month this May, we honour her outstanding accomplishments in bringing world-class landscape design to Canada, and to Vancouver in particular,” Mayor Kennedy Stewart said in a release. “On behalf of council, I extend my deepest sympathies to her family and friends. May her memory be a blessing.”

The award was approved by city council on May 18, days before Oberlander’s death.