For anyone that knows the Canadian First Lady of Landscape Architecture, 98 year old  Cornelia Oberlander you know that she is a force of nature with a visionary lens that has proven to be right time and time again.

She was advocating for green roofs decades ago, pointing out their ability to lower temperatures, provide greenery and absorb rainwater. She insisted on double rows of street trees as allees fifteen feet apart around the Robson Square Courthouse when it was being built in the 1970’s. She designed the roof top garden of the downtown Vancouver Public Library which is now on everyone’s list as a “go to” public space.

And she is already advocating for the new Jericho Lands 52  acre site to be developed as a complete ecological city, similar to Stockholm Port City or King’s Cross London. 

Sabrina Furminger in the Vancouver Courier   describes the new documentary film “City Dreamers” by filmmaker Joseph Hillel that follows four urban architects: Cornelia Oberlander, Blanche Lemco van Ginkel, Phyllis Lambert and Denise Scott Brown.

“These women shaped cityscapes and skylines. They built communities, both in their cities and in architecture. And they didn’t let the bastards get them down.
“They’re passionate,” says Hillel. “And they’re all still working hard… They’re between 87 and 97. They have very busy schedules. They like to control the discourse. It wasn’t easy to arrange interviews, but once I was in their company, they were so generous with their stories and time.”

Hillel’s film includes a sequence showing the changes in the Vancouver skyline from the 1960’s, as well as Cornelia Oberlander’s reaction to seeing homeless people camping in a park. “There is no affordable housing in this city,” she says.

“There are people who can’t rent there. There are people who are being forced to live outside of the city. And Cornelia and the other women make us see that the city should be for everyone. It’s not only for the wealthy people. It’s not only for an elite. We should be concerned about that because cities are getting bigger and we have to follow that rhythm and make it livable and listen to the people who have been thinking about this for decades.”
City Dreamers screens Saturday May 11 at the Cinematheque as part of the 2019 DOXA Documentary Film Festival. Tickets at doxafestival.ca.

Here is a YouTube video of Cornelia describing some of her projects as well as her concept of “wilding” where local ecological aspects are woven into urban landscape design.


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