Cornelia Hahn Oberlander fonds

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander fonds

Part of


  • Cornelia Hahn Oberlander (archive creator)


Cornelia Hahn Oberlander fonds

Dates of creation



  • archives

Level of archival description


Extent and Medium

  • 22.99 l.m. of textual records
  • 11 772 photographic materials
  • 9288 drawings
  • 7266 digital files (41 GB)
  • 35 panels
  • 40 artefacts
  • 18 sound recordings
  • 10 moving images
  • 5 printing plates
  • 2 graphic materials
  • 1 model

Scope and Content

The Cornelia Hahn Oberlander fonds documents Oberlander's professional activities as a landscape architect. It contains over 203 projects that span from 1954 to 2018 predominantly in Canada and in the United States, but also in Germany. The fonds is a complete record of Oberlander's work, and comprises her playground projects, roof gardens, and public space landscapes, as well as landscape designs for private residences. The fonds also includes adminstrative records from her practice and her professionnal engagements, and research material for her landscaping projects, publications, and lectures. The fonds includes material related to Cornelia Hahn Oberlander's participation on exhibitions of her own work, such as the exhibition "Art and Design Canada 2000" at the Royal Academy of Art in 1994, and the exhibition "Out of the Century" at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1999.

The fonds chiefly contains material related to Oberlander's landscape projects such as conceptual drawings, design development drawings, presentation drawings, and working drawings, which includes original drawings by Oberlander. Project related material also includes textual records and photographs. Oberlander's archive also comprises office records from Oberlander's practice, reference and research material such as small publications and press clippings on playgrounds and drawings and notes from her studies in landscape architecture at Harvard University.

Reference Number



The fonds is arranged in four series:

AP075.S1 Landscape architecture projects

AP075.S2 Exhibitions

AP075.S3 Professional activities and office records

AP075.S4 Reference and research material

Biographical notes

Cornelia Hahn (b. June 20, 1921, Mulheim, Germany; d. May 22, 2021, Vancouver, British Columbia) fled Berlin with her widowed mother and her sister in 1939 to settle first in New York City, them near Wolfboro, New Hampshire, USA. She attended Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts from 1941–44 before studying under Walter Gropius at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, graduating with a degree in Landscape Architecture in 1947. In 1950, Oberlander was hired as a community planner with the Citizen's Council on City Planning (CCCP) in Philadelphia. Oberlander worked with landscape architect Dan Kiley for projects in Vermont and in Philadelphia from 1951–53. She also worked in the same period for landscape architect James Rose on social housing developments as well as with architects Louis Kahn, and Oskar Stonorov (sometimes written as "Oscar"). In 1953, she married fellow Harvard graduate H. Peter Oberlander (1922-2008) and moved to Vancouver where her husband was charged with founding the Community and Regional Planning Department at the University of British Columbia (UBC). At this point Cornelia Hahn Oberlander opened her own practice as a landscape architect.

Until the early 1970s, Oberlander designed primarily children’s playgrounds, private residential gardens, and landscapes for social housing projects such as MacLean Park and Skeena Terrace in Vancouver (1957). After returning to Vancouver in 1974 from a two-year stay in Ottawa, while her husband served in the Federal Ministry of State for Urban Affairs, Oberlander was invited by architect Arthur Erickson to contribute to the planning of the Robson Square and the Provincial Courthouse complex in Vancouver (1979). Further collaborations with Erickson and others on important public buildings soon followed. She worked on many of Erickson's most renowned projects, such as the Museum of Anthropology at UBC (1976), the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. (1989), California Plaza in Los Angeles (1989), and the Liu Centre for Global Relations at UBC (1998). Oberlander also worked with architect Moshe Safdie on the Taiga (Arctic) Garden for the National Gallery of Canada (1989), landscapes for the Ottawa City Hall addition (1991), and the roof garden and plazas for the Vancouver Public Library (1995).

Projects Oberlander worked on in the 1990s included the United Nations Peacekeeping Monument in Ottawa, with architect Richard Henriquez and sculptor Jack Harmon, landscapes for the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly Building, Yellowknife (Matsuzaki / Wright Architects, 1991–94). She also worked on the ecologically innovative C.K. Choi Institute of Asian Research at UBC (Matsuzaki / Wright Architects, 1996), a project that committed Hahn Oberlander to environmental planning and sustainable development in urban contexts, as well as the landscape master plan for Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts (Rolland/Towers, 1997).

Major projects completed in the 2000s include Liu Centre for International Studies, University of British Columbia, Vancouver (Architectura/Arthur Erickson Architects, 2000), Jim Everett Memorial Park, University Endowment Lands, Vancouver, British Columbia (2001)¸ Holly Park III, Seattle, Washington (Solomon ETC Architects, 2005) a mixed-income housing community on 36 acres with central park, and the courtyard gardens, and roof gardens for the Canadian Embassy, Berlin, Germany (Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, 2005).

Oberlander was awarded the Order of Canada in 1990, to be promoted to Companion of the Order in 2018. She is now widely considered Canada’s premier landscape architect.

Many of Oberlander's projects have been highlighted in exhibitions, including exhibition "Cornelia Hahn Oberlander: Ecological Landscapes" at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in 2006. A catalogue with photographs by Etta Gerdes accompanied the exhibition, Bilder kanadischer Landschaftsarchitektur/ Picturing Landscape Architecture, edited by Mechtild Manus and Lisa Rochon and published by the Goethe-Institut (Montréal) and Callwey, Munich.

Conditions governing access

  • Digital material can only be accessed on-site. Please contact Reference at ref@cca.qc.ca for more information. Access by appointment only. Audiovisual recordings must be digitized for access. Researchers may request access by contacting Reference at ref@cca.qc.ca. Please note that some recordings in this file have already been digitized. Researchers may access digitized audiovisual recordings by contacting Reference at ref@cca.qc.ca. Please see item-level records for more detailed information. Access by appointment only.

Conditions governing reproduction

  • Contact the CCA for copyright information and permission to reproduce (reproductions@cca.qc.ca).

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

  • Gift of Cornelia Hahn Oberlander.

Custodial history

The Cornelia Hahn Oberlander fonds was acquired from Cornelia Hahn Oberlander by the CCA in 1997. The material was transferred in several additions between 1996 and 2019 from Oberlander's residence and office. A final addition in 2021 was made by Oberlander's children on her behalf.

Archivist's note

  • The Cornelia Hahn Oberlander fonds was arranged and described in various phases between 2002 and 2012. From March to September 2018, the finding aid was updated and processing was completed by Catherine Jacob. The final addition of 2021 was processed by Catherine Jacob.

Credit line

When citing the collection as a whole, use the citation:
Cornelia Hahn Oberlander fonds
Collection Centre Canadien d'Architecture/
Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal;
Don de Cornelia Hahn Oberlander/
Gift of Cornelia Hahn Oberlander
When citing specific collection material, please refer to the object’s specific credit line.

Language of material

English, with some material in German.

Related units of description

  • Cornelia Hahn Oberlander often worked on landscape projects related to buildings designed by Arthur Erickson. See the Arthur Erickson fonds (AP022) in the CCA's collection for more records related to these projects.

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