About the Lead Donors
Joan Shafran and Rob Haimes had been practicing low-key philanthropy before becoming lead donors for the Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize ("Oberlander Prize"). Both had been involved with the arts before meeting at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Joan was one of the first graduate students in what later became the Media Lab, and Rob was on staff. Rob then worked in the technology industry before leaving to pursue an interest in architecture. Joan continued teaching, then took over a small family real estate investment company and was given a seat on the Board of Directors of Forest City Enterprises (also a family business). It was during this time that she discovered a talent for governance and joined a number of nonprofit boards.
With this experience, and with developing friendships in the landscape architecture community, she was asked to join The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) board, and in a few years became co-chair.
Both Joan and Rob were inspired by TCLF’s mission – the idea that landscape architecture should have the same visibility and recognition as building architecture, and be seen as integrated with it in the built world. Helping to fund the Oberlander Prize matched their vision of entrepreneurial grant-making, just on a much larger scale.
“Our involvement with TCLF, and seeing and learning about the inspired work of landscape architects, led us to think about how to raise the public’s awareness of their works in a more dramatic way. Supporting the Oberlander Prize came out of that. We hope the Oberlander Prize will provide not just recognition of exceptional projects but also promote a wider public discussion of the role of landscape architecture in life.”
Image Credit: Miller Garden, Columbus, IN, 2005. Designed by the Office of Dan Kiley, 1957. Photo © Charles A. Birnbaum, courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation. Learn why we chose a work by this landscape architect.