Cornelia Hahn Oberlander - Landscape Architect 

" To be out of doors surrounded by nature is healing."

Photos:  Tree Fest Ottawa 

National Gallery, Ottawa

National Gallery, Ottawa

Q.1. Do you have a favourite childhood memory related to trees?

Climbing a beech tree in my grandmother’s garden.

Q.2. Was there a specific time or event in your life that sparked your interest in becoming a landscape architect?

In my 11th year I visited an artist’s studio and saw a mural with green spaces, houses and streets, and once I learned the green spaces were parks I knew that was what I wanted to do.

Q.3. From your perspective, what are the contributions made by trees that make them so important and valuable?

The tree gives shade, protection from rain and improves air.

Q.4. What effect does spending time in nature have on you personally?

To be out of doors surrounded by nature is healing.

Q.5. As a landscape architect, you have been a strong proponent of planting native species over exotic species. Why is this important?

Native species are resilient to drought, floods and winds.

Q.6. You designed one of Ottawa’s most iconic spaces – the landscape around the National Gallery. Can you describe the vision you had for this project?

The National Gallery of Canada represents the Canadian north with its Taiga garden. The design for this is based on the concept of the pictures in the gallery of the Group of Seven.

Taiga garden at the National Gallery, Ottawa

Taiga garden at the National Gallery, Ottawa

 Q.7. From your experience, what are the benefits of designing landscapes to foster humans’ connection with nature? 

Longing for nature is built into our genes, as written in Biophyllia Hypothesis by E.O. Wilson.

Q.8. There was a point in your career when you devoted a lot of your time to designing outdoor play spaces for children. What are the design principals that are fundamental to your work in creating outdoor spaces for children?

Risk taking, enjoying nature and building with found material.

Q.9. Finally, it was reported that your favourite tree specimen is Gingko biloba. Do you have a favourite among the tree species that are native to eastern Ontario? If so, which one and why?

Nyssa sylvatica is a favourite of mine in eastern Ontario for its fall colour and shape.