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Cornelia Hahn Oberlander

Making the Modern Landscape

Susan Herrington. Foreword by Marc Treib

Publication Year: 2014

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander is one of the most important landscape architects of the twentieth century, yet despite her lasting influence, few outside the field know her name. Her work has been instrumental in the development of the late-twentieth-century design ethic, and her early years working with architectural luminaries such as Louis Kahn and Dan Kiley prepared her to bring a truly modern—and audaciously abstract—sensibility to the landscape design tradition.

In Cornelia Hahn Oberlander: Making the Modern Landscape, Susan Herrington draws upon archival research, site analyses, and numerous interviews with Oberlander and her collaborators to offer the first biography of this adventurous and influential landscape architect. Born in 1921, Oberlander fled Nazi Germany at the age of eighteen with her family, going on to become one of the few women to graduate from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design in the late 1940s. For six decades she has practiced socially responsible and ecologically sensitive planning for public landscapes, including the 1970s design of the Robson Square landscape and its adjoining Provincial Law Courts—one of Vancouver’s most famous spaces.

Herrington places Oberlander within a larger social and aesthetic context, chronicling both her personal and professional trajectory and her work in New York, Philadelphia, Vancouver, Seattle, Berlin, Toronto, and Montreal.

Oberlander is a progenitor of some of the most significant currents informing landscape architecture today, particularly in the area of ecological focus. In her thorough biography, Herrington draws much-deserved attention to one of the truly important figures in landscape architecture.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 1-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

Until quite recently it would have been difficult to name a significant landscape architect working in Canada — although as we learn from this book, for more than four decades there has been at least one woman who could claim that accolade. The name we should have known, of course, is Cornelia...

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pp. xv-xvi

During the course of my research for Cornelia Hahn Oberlander: Making the Modern Landscape, many institutions and organizations gave me assistance. The Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada provided the first grant that was essential to realizing the book. I have...

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pp. 1-10

This account of Cornelia Hahn Oberlander’s life work also tells a story of modern landscape architecture. Both a biography and a history, I chronicle Oberlander’s career as it plays out ahead and alongside the profession’s unfolding from World War II to the present in North America. Most...

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pp. 11-30

The following chronicles Cornelia Hahn Oberlander’s life from childhood to her graduation from Harvard University in 1947. It gives an account of her motives as well as the circumstances that have shaped her life, and eventually her practice as a landscape architect. Here, Oberlander’s own words order...

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pp. 31-96

An analysis of the 1951 Landscape Architecture exhibit catalog opens this chapter. The project types and modes of representation featured in the catalog are a testament to the growing conviction that the profession must design for all segments of society — a belief realized by the fact that numerous socially...

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Human Environment

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pp. 97-148

The following describes how more spatially complex experiences afforded by the idea of environment increasingly occupied Oberlander’s and other landscape architects’ thinking in the 1960s and 1970s. While the use of the term “environ” in...

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Ecological Environment

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pp. 149-198

This chapter begins with Oberlander’s and the profession’s increasing support of the environment as a “movement,” which sought to stop the degradation of ecological systems. For landscape architects enlisted in the environmental cause this support went deeper than preventative measures against...

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pp. 199-218

The following describes some of the design inventions that Oberlander has devised over the years. Given the scope of new projects available to landscape architects after World War II and the new design vocabulary emerging in the profession, Oberlander was often pressed to invent her own details, techniques...

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pp. 219-226

I opened Cornelia Hahn Oberlander: Making the Modern Landscape with the claim that Oberlander’s narrative is also a story of modern landscape architecture. Given that her practice has spanned more than half a century, her life work has provided detailed accounts of modern landscape architecture’s...


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pp. 227-244


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pp. 245-261


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pp. 262-272

E-ISBN-13: 9780813935362
E-ISBN-10: 0813935369
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813934594
Print-ISBN-10: 0813934591

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 20 color illus., 84 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 870520269
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Cornelia Hahn Oberlander

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Jewish women -- Canada -- Biography.
  • Holocaust survivors -- Canada -- Biography.
  • Landscape architects -- Canada -- Biography.
  • Women landscape architects -- Canada -- Biography.
  • Oberlander, Cornelia Hahn.
  • Harvard University. Graduate School of Design.
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