Thank You to All Our Participants

Thank you to everyone who joined us in Vancouver, British Columbia from November 30th to December 3rd, 2010 to make CitiesAlive such a success! This event is now over, but we hope to see you all for CitiesAlive 2011 next November. For more information about CitiesAlive 2011 and for other programs run by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, please check out our main website at

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Please take a look at our Acknowledgments page to see some the individuals working to make this conference great!
Lifetime Achievement Awards PDF Print E-mail

At our Awards of Excellence Luncheon on Thursday, December 2nd, we will be paying a special tribute to two different legends of the green roofing industry: Cornelia Hahn Oberlander and the late Theodore Osmundson.


My life as landscape architect


(photo courtesy of Cornelia Hahn Oberlander)

Reflections of six decades designing natural sites

By Cornelia Hahn Oberlander (this article will appear in an upcoming issue of the Living Architecture Monitor)

From my 11th year onward I had only one goal, to become a landscape architect to design outdoor spaces for the enjoyment of all in our urban environment. Growing up in a garden with large trees and flowers, I learned to love and tend plants under the guidance of my mother, a horticulturist. In order to prepare for my chosen profession I went to Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, to learn about history, art, architecture and nature. A few years later I received the professional degree of Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

In 1953 I came to Vancouver from the United States with Peter, my husband, fellow Harvard student and graduate of McGill School of Architecture, Class of 1945. Canada was a new and beautiful country with untouched open spaces, limitless potential and challenges for my profession. Over the past 60 years, I have been involved as landscape architect in a wide range of projects with noted internationally acclaimed architects and public agencies in Canada and the U.S.A. All projects are based on design concepts and studies of social cultural and physical features of a given site. To each project I attempt to bring the mastery of the art and the science of sustainable development, as well as the ability to work creatively as a member of the team with architects and engineers in relating the finite form of the building to the site

My career began in Philadelphia, working for architects Louis I. Kahn, Oscar Stonorov, and landscape architect Dan Kiley.  

Since 1974, I have worked with Arthur Erickson (graduate of McGill School of Architecture), beginning with the three-block Provincial Government Office and Courthouse Complex called Robson Square in Vancouver, an accessible rooftop garden called an oasis in the city.  Other Arthur Erickson Architect's projects include The Museum of Anthropology, U.B.C. (1976) and the Canadian Chancery, Washington, D.C. (1989).  The Museum of Anthropology features open meadows and the utilization of plant material based on studies of Ethnobotany. The Canadian Chancery, Washington, D.C. features hanging gardens with trees and roses. This project was awarded the National Landscape Award Presented by the First Lady at the White House.

Since 1983, I have worked in association with Moshe Safdie Architects (McGill School of Architecture 1967). In Ottawa we collaborated on the National Gallery of Canada (1988) and received a National Award by the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects. In Vancouver we won the design competition to build the Vancouver Public Library (1992–1995) with a green inaccessible roof that slows the stormwater runoff, increases the biomass of the city and reduces the heat island effect.

In 1991, with the Architects Matsuzaki/Wright  I was involved as a Landscape Architect to design the setting for the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly Building in Yellowknife. The site was restored with native plant material. Also with Matsuzaki/Wright from 1992 to 1995 the C. K. Choi Building, Institute of Asian Research, UBC teamwork made it possible to achieve “one of the 10 best green buildings in North America.”

From 2000 to 2007, I was commissioned with HM White Site Architects of New York to design the landscape for the new *New York Times* Headquarters with architect Renzo Piano. Under my guidance microclimatic studies where carried out to determine the location of 50-foot tall Birch trees in the courtyard. The 70-foot square courtyard garden is carpeted with grassy mounds.

As president of the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (1986-1987), I urged the federal government to declare South Moresby Island a National Park. As environmental chairman (1987-1988) of the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, I worked on raising the awareness level in the profession towards achieving sustainable development vis-a-vis our deteriorating environment.

Earlier work included leadership in local community projects, especially in the field of adventure and creative playgrounds. The play area designed for The Children's Creative Center at the Canadian Federal Pavilion at *Expo ‘67* in Montreal inspired by my three children became the catalyst for a new direction of children's play across Canada.  Subsequently, I became a member of the National Task Force on Children's Play of the Canadian Council on Children and Youth, developing guidelines for Children's play environments.

A legend remembered.        


(photo courtesy of Gordon Osmundson)

A son remembers his father, landscape architect and roof garden pioneer, Theodore Osmundson

By Gordon Osmundson (this article will appear in an upcoming issue of the Living Architecture Monitor)

In the late 1950s, landscape architect Theodore Osmundson was working on a private garden for Edgar Kaiser in Lafayette, California. At the same time Kaiser Industries was building its headquarters on Lake Merritt in Oakland. Edgar looked down on the concrete roof deck of the building’s parking garage and, remembering the rooftop gardens* of the Rockefeller Center in New York, thought that this rooftop should have one too and asked Osmundson if he could do it. Osmundson had never done a roof garden, practically no one had since the 1930s, but he immediately said “yes.” The resulting Kaiser Center Roof Garden, the first major roof garden since the 1930s, became Osmundson’s best known work and marked the beginning of an involvement and passion for roof gardens that would last until the end of his life.
Theodore Osmundson, born in Portsmouth, Virginia, in 1921, he died on April 9, 2009 at the age of 88, in Kensington, California, where he resided with his wife, Lorraine. Together they raised three sons, Gordon, Richard and Douglas.

Industry Pioneer
Osmundson’s remarkable career began upon graduation from Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in landscape architecture in 1943. By 1946, he had opened his own practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. Back then, the practice of landscape architecture largely consisted of residential landscapes, but by the 1960s, his practice had grown to include college campuses, recreation areas, historic properties, commercial projects and the design of urban parks.

His office designed a number of roof gardens over the years, the best known of these later gardens being the Kaiser Resources Garden in Vancouver, British Columbia. Following this, he wrote the article "The Changing Technique of Roof Garden Design" for *Landscape Architecture Magazine,* March 1979. A recognized expert on roof gardens, he conducted weekend summer seminars on the subject at Harvard-MIT. Years of travel to study and photograph roof gardens around the world eventually led to the publication of Roof Gardens, History, Design and Construction (W.W. Norton, 1999).

Osmundson long recognized the value of professionals working together to achieve common goals. While he maintained a professional practice for 60 years, it was through service to the profession that he left his greatest legacy. He worked through the professional organizations at the local, national and international levels, serving as president and bringing change to each. In California, in the 1950s, he saw the need for professional licensing and helped to get the first Landscape Architecture licensing in the nation. As president of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), 1967 - 1969, he reshaped the organization by bringing in professional management, initiated studies of the profession and the environment and was one of the founders of today’s Landscape Architecture Foundation, serving as its first president, 1969 - 1971. For his efforts he was given every award the ASLA could bestow including, in 1983, the ASLA Medal for his extraordinary contributions to the profession.

His work has been more felt than seen, but it has affected everyone who has practiced landscape architecture in the last half century. Gary O. Robinette Professor at the University of Texas is currently writing his biography.

* Note: In forty years of working with my father I never heard him talk of doing “green roofs,” he always talked about roof gardens. All the projects that we did were roof gardens, that is habitable spaces that included permanent plantings. So to speak of him as a green roof pioneer, etc. is really a bit of revisionist history. That’s not to say that he wasn’t familiar with the term, but it was more something that was happening in Germany, roof greening, and that he learned about when he studied German practices for inclusion in his book. He mentions it this way in the book.

In fact the term “roof garden” was common among landscape architects during my father’s career, but “green roofs” only became a common term after his book was published.


Gordon Osmundson is a practicing landscape architect in San Francisco. He worked with his father from 1973 until Theodore Osmundson retired in the early 2000s. Gordon is currently working on a second edition of Roof Gardens, History, Design and Construction.