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Pioneering architect honoured by City of Vancouver days before death

One of Vancouver's most awarded residents has died
Cornelia Hahn Oberlander.

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander passed away yesterday (May 22), but in her 99 years she achieved quite a lot.

The celebrated landscape architect received one more accolade on May 18 as the City of Vancouver presented her with the Freedom of the City Award.

At 18 she escaped Nazi Germany, making it to the United States where she was one of the first women to graduate from Harvard with a degree in landscape architecture. She ended up settling in Vancouver where she founded her own firm.

Over the years she became iconic for her work and as a part of the Jewish community.

“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,” says Mayor Kennedy Stewart in a press release. “On behalf of Council, I extend my deepest sympathies to her family and friends. May her memory be a blessing.”

Among the ideas she championed was that of 'green cities' with a mixture of city and country styles. Her work can be seen throughout the city, from the log benches at beaches to Robson Square to the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre. Outside of Vancouver her work includes the New York TImes Building's atrium, Ottawa's city hall (where she collaborated with Moshe Safdie) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem botanical garden.

The Freedom of the City Award is the highest honour the City of Vancouver has; it's given to Vancouverites who have garnered national or international acclaim. She joins the likes of Dr. David Suzuki, Bill Reid, Rick Hansen and Jim Pattison.

Oberlander collected a significant number of awards and honours in her lifetime, including being named a Companion of the Order of Canada (the highest solely Canadian civilian honour), a Member of the Order of British Columbia and mutliple international landscape architecture honours. She also has an award named after her by the Cultural Landscape Foundation and was the inaugural winner of the Governor General's Medal in Landscape Architecture.