Cornelia Oberlander, a Farsighted Landscape Architect, Dies at 99

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, a German-born Canadian landscape architect who blended naturalistic styles with modernist beliefs and recognized early on the urgency of weather adjust, creating community areas to mitigate its results, died on May 22 in Vancouver, British Columbia. She was 99.

The lead to was troubles of Covid-19, mentioned her daughter Judy Oberlander.

Ms. Oberlander was 1 of the to start with gals to study at Harvard’s Graduate School of Style and design, in which she was taught by Walter Gropius, a chief of the Bauhaus motion. Its modernist ethos and her very own upbringing gave her a mission to boost people’s life with general public spaces nourished by character.

With the Canadian modernist architect Arthur Erickson, she created some of the most enduring and beloved community spaces in Vancouver, her adopted city. A single is Robson Sq., a 3-block downtown plaza built amongst 1978 and 1983. An oasis of green roofs, waterfalls and hanging gardens, it descends from the city’s courthouses and govt offices — a low-slung concrete elaborate created by Mr. Erickson — by way of an ingenious series of carefully graded granite stair ramps that Ms. Oberlander known as “stramps” (she was motivated by goat paths). They make just about every amount navigable to any one, even if you are in a wheelchair or pushing a pram.

She and Mr. Erickson also teamed up on the Museum of Anthropology at the College of British Columbia in Vancouver, yet another critically acclaimed landmark. Listed here his startling glass and concrete Brutalist creating is nestled in an open up meadow of indigenous vegetation, the building searching as if it had sprouted thoroughly formed from Ms. Oberlander’s landscape.

Ms. Oberlander, an advocate of pocket parks and participate in areas in cities, was emphatic about the healing results of character, and the capability of landscape architecture to result social modify.

“The longing for mother nature is designed into our genes,” she told Charles Birnbaum of the Cultural Landscape Foundation when he interviewed her for an oral history of her daily life. “That is the driving power driving my function.”

Extensive right before the phrase “climate change” had entered the well known lexicon, Ms. Oberlander was coming up with green roofs to cool metropolitan areas and deliver storm water management. She labored globally, with some of the 20th century’s most celebrated architects, including Louis Kahn, Moshe Safdie and Renzo Piano.

She worked in specific with Mr. Piano on the new headquarters for The New York Occasions, a 52-tale tower on Manhattan’s West Side. His layout identified as for an interior atrium in the form of a ideal dice with a grid of birch trees, and it was Ms. Oberlander’s seemingly not possible endeavor to make it take place.

“Cornelia brought science to the discussion,” explained Hank White, the landscape architect with whom she collaborated on the task. She termed in a scientist who had developed a program software to product microclimatology and questioned him to evaluate the wind, sunlight and shade patterns of this still to be developed room. In the conclude, on an undulating floor of hillocks and dales, the trees ended up placed not on a grid but specifically in which the gentle would tumble.

“She was a landscape architect who examined housing, who researched towns,” the architecture critic Paul Goldberger wrote of Ms. Oberlander in 2019, when the Cultural Landscape Basis founded an award in her name. Her lifetime, he continued, “was deeply intertwined with the expanding presence of the modern-day motion in the United States and then in Canada, and whose total career has been a rebuke to people who might be so foolhardy as to believe that the style and design of landscape is mostly a make any difference of choosing crops.”

Cornelia Ann Hahn was born on June 20, 1921, in Mülheim-an-der-Ruhr, Germany, the oldest of 3 daughters in a rich and socially aware loved ones. Her father, Franz Hahn, was an engineer in the family’s steel small business, started by a good-grandfather of Cornelia’s, and afterwards a management consultant her mom, Beate (Jastrow) Hahn, was a horticulturist and children’s e book author. Cornelia grew up in Düsseldorf and Berlin. Her father was killed in an avalanche in 1933 though skiing.

With the Nazis mounting to electric power in the 1930s, Cornelia, like so many other Jewish kids, was forbidden to show up at her faculty. The family’s passports were being taken absent, as was the steel business that was the resource of their prosperity. Their butler began to conceal his possess money under a rug for the relatives so that it might assistance them should they escape. They had been at last able to flee in late 1938, two weeks after Kristallnacht, the Nazi pogrom towards Jews, with the aid of Geoffrey Lawrence, a British choose and spouse and children close friend who would go on to oversee the Nuremberg trials.

The Hahn family members very first settled in New Rochelle, N.Y., and then in New Hampshire on a 200-acre farm, where Ms. Oberlander’s mom practiced natural gardening. Cornelia selected Smith Higher education for her undergraduate scientific tests, drawn by its classes in landscape style and design.

At Harvard’s Faculty of Design, she fulfilled Peter Oberlander, who was finding out city setting up. Viennese-born and also Jewish, Mr. Oberlander had ended up in Canada in 1940 soon after possessing been in a collection of internment camps. Cornelia caught his eye at a university student picnic, and so did the dessert she had brought, an Austrian Bundt-fashion cake called a gugelhupf.

“It was ‘a position in time cake’” that sealed the offer, explained their daughter Wendy Oberlander — a kind of madeleine that established an instantaneous bond among the two younger European refugees.

The few married in New York Town in 1953 and moved to Vancouver, where by Mr. Oberlander grew to become a professor of metropolis arranging at the College of British Columbia. He died in 2008. In addition to her daughters Judy and Wendy, Ms. Oberlander is survived by a son, Tim, and 4 grandchildren.

Ms. Oberlander was serious about youngsters and their perform, and concerned significantly about city young children and their entry to mother nature. Beginning with her early perform in public housing in Philadelphia, she designed absolutely sure to involve sites for young children in her landscapes.

One particular playground she made through this period of time was manufactured from swooping concrete designs — “all the aspects for children to make up their own tale,” said Alexandra Lange, an architecture critic and the creator of “The Layout of Childhood: How the Substance Environment Styles Independent Kids” (2018). The Philadelphia web-site prefigured Ms. Oberlander’s design and style for her additional renowned get the job done, a playground for Expo 67, the Montreal world’s reasonable Ms. Lange explained it as a stage for youngsters to categorical them selves on, relatively than an arrangement of products that instructed them what to do.

Referred to as the House for Imaginative Participate in, the Expo design and style was a rolling landscape of looping paths, a canal with arched wooden bridges, a climbing net and a beach front. “All young ones will need,” Ms. Oberlander typically explained, “is some sand, h2o and some thing to climb on.”

She would go on to style 70 urban playgrounds, largely in Canada. Among the her a lot of awards, she was honored with the Get of British Columbia in 2016 and manufactured a Companion of the Purchase of Canada in 2018. Days ahead of her dying, the mayor of Vancouver announced that she had received the city’s greatest honor, the Freedom of the Metropolis Award.

“My mom lived concerning two pandemics,” explained Tim Oberlander, “and her story connects with the arc of German Jewish heritage.” He stated Vancouver’s new lockdown had made his mother sense as “cooped up” — her words — as she was throughout her last many years in Berlin. She was nevertheless doing the job when she fell unwell.

In 2008, when Mr. Birnbaum, of the Cultural Landscape Basis, flew out to Vancouver to job interview Ms. Oberlander for his oral record, she gave him and his crew a tour of her assets: a modernist dwelling that cantilevers around a ravine (she and her partner had created it with a mate) and a semi-wild landscape with fruit trees and bouquets.

As was her routine, Ms. Oberlander, at 5-foot-2, was marching along swiftly, and the film crew was struggling to hold up. When Mr. Birnbaum asked her to gradual down, she told him: “When I was young, I was often the fastest. My mom stated I experienced to slow down and allow the Aryan little ones acquire. I swore I would in no way slow down once again.”

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