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

Genius Loci – A New Traveling Exhibition About Cornelia Hahn Oberlander

Edmonton, AB

The West Vancouver Art Museum was the inaugural venue for a new traveling exhibition – Genius Loci – about the life and career of landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander. It continues at the Art Gallery of Alberta April 3 to August 22. According to the museum’s website: “This bilingual French and English exhibition introduces projects by Oberlander, which are presented in four sections devoted to playgrounds, social housing, public projects, and residential projects, showing photography of the places alongside her sketches, plans, and research proposals. A publication of the same name has been produced, with contributions by Oberlander and the exhibition curators, Susan Herrington and Eva Matsuzaki.”

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander
Cornelia Hahn Oberlander - Photo by Charles Birnbaum, 2008

Oberlander’s devotion to the profession of landscape architecture began early in life. “From my 11th year onward,” she wrote in the exhibition catalogue, “I had only one goal: to become a landscape architect and to design outdoor spaces for the enjoyment of all in our urban environment.” On the cusp of her 100th year, Oberlander continues to be a forward-thinking champion and advocate. Her catalogue essay notes: “Today more than ever, landscape architecture can be a leading profession because we are trained to look at the bigger picture of our built and natural environments. We cultivate our eco-systems and our social systems at both a local and a global scale. The challenges of climate change, hyper-urbanized growth in the developed and developing worlds, the loss of open space and agricultural lands and resource scarcity are expanding the scale, methods and demands on our profession.”

Children's Creative Center Plan
Children's Creative Center Plan - Photo courtesy CCA Archives, 1967

"Genius Loci offers us the opportunity to delve into the life and work of the intrepid, prescient and fearless Cornelia Hahn Oberlander," said Charles A. Birnbaum, president and CEO of The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF). "This solitary figure is not only represented by an extraordinary legacy, she is also the inspiration for countless landscape architects moving forward."

On January 24, 2021, the museum will host a panel discussion featuring Oberlander and moderated by exhibition co-curator Dr. Hilary Letwin. Additional panelists include exhibition co-curator Amery Calvelli, Oberlander biographer Susan Herrington, architect Eva Matsuzaki, and TCLF’s Birnbaum. The event is free – registration is now open.