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Native Journalism Initiative

West Vancouver Museum opens exhibition on eminent panorama architect

West Vancouver Artwork Museum curator Hilary Letwin has lengthy been fascinated and impressed by the work of eminent panorama architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander. Now, she will get to share that keenness with the broader group by way of the museum’s newest exhibition, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander: Genius Loci. The outstanding 99-year-old, who lives in Vancouver and remains to be consulting on initiatives, is among the many most notable panorama architects on the planet. Over her profession, she’s designed landscapes domestically, nationally and overseas, and grow to be identified for her need to “create terrains which can be much less an interruption and extra an amplification of what already exists on a web site.” Therefore the title of the exhibition, Genius Loci, that means “the protecting spirit of a spot.” Oberlander was born right into a outstanding Jewish household in 1921 in Germany, and later fled the Nazi regime together with her mom and sister to create a brand new life in america in 1939. After finding out, she relocated to Vancouver in 1953, the place she launched into a lot of panorama initiatives nonetheless round at the moment. She’s additionally well-known for pioneering the inexperienced roofs seen round Vancouver. Letwin, who co-curated the exhibit with Amery Calvelli from the Artwork Gallery of Alberta, stated it showcases 12 totally different initiatives by Oberlander throughout 4 classes of her work, together with playgrounds, social housing, personal residences, and enormous public areas. Every venture exhibits pictures of the locations alongside her sketches, plans, and analysis proposals. “The No. 1 objective of the exhibition was not solely to current Cornelia and her life’s work but additionally to deal with a few of the initiatives that individuals would perhaps be much less conversant in,” defined Letwin. Letwin, who moved to Vancouver 10 years in the past together with her husband, stated her curiosity for Oberlander’s work was sparked whereas out on each day walks exploring town. “As I used to be strolling round Vancouver, I stored coming throughout these lovely, very elegant, type of pocket gardens across the metropolis,” she stated. “In fact, I needed to know why they had been designed and who they had been designed by, and I found extra occasions than not that the gardens had been designed by Cornelia Oberlander. These are locations like Robson Sq., and the Vancouver Public Library’s roof gardens, and the Museum of Anthropology. All of those actually iconic Vancouver areas had been due to Cornelia’s designs, and that made me admire simply what an affect this panorama architect has had on our personal constructed surroundings.” Quick ahead just a few years, and in 2018, Letwin interviewed for the assistant curator place on the West Vancouver Artwork Museum. To bolster her possibilities for the job, she introduced together with her the concept for an exhibition on Oberlander’s panorama structure. “There was all the time a particular focus yearly and one thing associated to West Coast trendy design and structure,” stated Letwin, including that West Vancouver, from the ’50s, was a spot the place a lot of architects and designers impressed by Bauhaus (a German idea by architect Walter Gropius) got here to construct their household houses on the rocky slopes overlooking the ocean, and it turned a really distinctive residential architectural fashion on the North Shore. After trying on the museum’s prior exhibitions, she seen that many targeted on male architects and thought it was solely becoming to shine a light-weight on a feminine architect who has and remains to be having a major affect on Vancouver’s panorama. Like most of the male architects of her time, Oberlander additionally got here out of a home design program. She studied at Smith Faculty in Massachusetts and, in 1944, continued her research on the Graduate Faculty of Design at Harvard College earlier than she ventured to Vancouver within the ’50s, engaged on a mixture of panorama initiatives. From the early Nineteen Seventies, she started collaborating with famend architect Arthur Erickson. “She was deeply influenced by this type of Bauhaus modernist method, which might be outlined in a lot of other ways, however most easily, it is the usage of easy supplies, and it is the pursuit of fine design by way of simplicity,” defined Letwin. When Letwin acquired the job, she was inspired to pursue the concept for the exhibition, and after visiting Oberlander in early 2019, she teamed up with Calvelli from the Artwork Gallery of Alberta to make the present a actuality. Whereas this isn’t the primary exhibition to function Oberlander’s work, it’s the most retrospective – and she or he additionally helped select what to incorporate. “She was very happy with the concept,” stated Letwin. “She has been very actively concerned within the course of.” Two of the initiatives highlighted could also be acquainted to North Shore residents. “The primary venture is the North Shore Neighbourhood home playground,” stated Letwin. “This can be a venture that Cornelia designed in 1968. The playground is, sadly, not actually there. They do have a playground, nevertheless it’s not the one which Cornelia designed. “That simply goes to point out actually the fragility of panorama structure and panorama design. It is really easy for these landscapes to be modified. Panorama designs, particularly ones like this one from 1968, , they’re topic to be up to date and adjusted for many totally different causes.” The second North Shore venture chosen is the panorama design Oberlander created for the Monteverdi Property, a improvement of 20 houses on Monteverdi Place designed in 1979 and accomplished in 1982 by Arthur Erickson’s agency. “That was a great instance of Cornelia working along with architects, which is what she typically did all through her profession,” stated Letwin. “Her intent was to take care of as most of the timber as potential and to take care of the prevailing panorama as a lot as potential. She did some very cautious planting of crops like rhododendrons, which do very nicely on this surroundings, after which she suggested very considered pruning and tree care. “That panorama, in fact, is now over 40 years previous, and it is largely unchanged. It is nonetheless lovely. It is nonetheless very peaceable, and it retains all its authentic allure.” The exhibition is hoped to present viewers an all-round appreciation for Oberlander’s work. “It’s totally onerous to do a visible exhibition about one thing like panorama design as a result of in the end, one needs to have the ability to transport individuals to that individual web site, to actually admire the magic of Cornelia’s designs,” stated Letwin. “However in fact, that is not largely potential. So, I need individuals to have the ability to principally perceive the story of every of the initiatives which have comprised her profession. I would like individuals to stroll away with a way of her priorities from venture to venture, but additionally to grasp the breadth of her focuses all through her profession.” Letwin stated Oberlander’s initiatives over time revealed constant and vital stewardship of the pure surroundings. “Her panorama designs, in each single occasion, have been impressed by a hope to attach individuals with nature and with their pure surroundings.” For Letwin, Oberlander is inspiring not just for her panorama designs however for her dedication to analysis earlier than embarking on a venture, her skilled vigour and charm, and her potential to stability skilled and household life. “As a mom of two younger youngsters myself, I all the time have appreciated, particularly in the previous few years, seeing how she developed her profession very efficiently whereas nonetheless elevating a household,” she stated. “I feel that she’s finished it with such grace and magnificence, and that to me was inspiring.” She stated Oberlander had all the time proven such appreciation for all times and had a means of all the time placing issues into perspective. “She has had a rare life,” stated Letwin. “She likes to say that ‘she by no means seemed again,’ and I feel that is completely the case. “I feel that she has all the time seized each alternative that life brings her, and I vastly admire that about her.” The exhibition will likely be open till March 13. As soon as it wraps up in West Vancouver, it is going to be displayed on the Artwork Gallery of Alberta. Elisia Seeber, Native Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore Information

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