Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC

Eva Matsuzaki

Posted: Sep 24, 2019

Now a retired architect, Eva Matsuzaki, PP/FRAIC, Hon. AIBC, Hon. FAIA, was born in Riga, Latvia. After immigrating with her family to the United States in the wake of World War II, she earned a B.Arch. from Cornell University in 1966. She then spent six years in the offices of Eero Saarinen, later known as Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo Associates, and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, with her husband, Kiyoshi Matsuzaki. Ms. Matsuzaki worked for a decade at Arthur Erickson Architects, primarily involved in the Robson Square project, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and a housing project. In 1984 she formed Matsuzaki Wright Architects with Jim Wright. Perhaps their most notable work was the C.K. Choi Building on the campus of the University of British Columbia, an award-winning project recognized for its sustainability measures, which included waterless composting toilets and reused bricks and timbers. She has also designed student housing, residential high-rise buildings, social housing, golf clubhouses, and private residences.

Ms. Matsuzaki is a founder of Women in Architecture, a professional organization based in Vancouver, and is a member of the city’s Urban Design Panel, Library Board, and Transit Board. She has served on numerous architectural committees and boards, and she was, in 1998–1999, the first woman president of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. She currently serves on the board of a support group for people living with cancer.

Statement: Cornelia’s work has been recognized with many awards and prizes, all well deserved. But one of Cornelia’s characteristics that is little known or publicized has been her accessibility to be a role model to professional women. There were few role models in architecture during my career. At lectures or conferences or meetings in a home, women asked Cornelia for advice, asked about her experiences, professional and personal, and she was never too busy or reluctant to share. She taught us her mantra of the “4 Ps”—Patience, Perseverance, Politeness, and Passion. She reminded us to stay with our passion, to maintain our good humor and positive outlook.

Every conversation included some laughs. In recent years we also included poetry to add flavor to the day. During drives to site visits or over salad lunches, we talked about the challenge of balancing a robust professional career, family life, and volunteer work while staying connected to our communities. She was active on all fronts. The older I get, the more I appreciate those that walked the path ahead of me. Now we walk the path together, as friends, usually along the beach at Spanish Banks. I believe that the Oberlander Prize will be bestowed on a person or firm that incorporates not only beauty and science in their work, but that also has a ‘social conscience,’ one that contributes to the community, however small or broad, and whatever is appropriate to its time.

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