• Cornelia Hahn Oberlander on Pedagogical Playgrounds
    Cornelia Hahn Oberlander
    Jane Mah Hutton
    Concordia University Press and Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2023
    Concordia University Press

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, Sketch plan for North Shore Neighborhood House Playground, Vancouver, British Columbia. 1968. Drawing in ink with graphite on translucent paper, 54 × 62 cm. Courtesy Cornelia Hahn Oberlander fonds, CCA Collection. ARCH401910. Gift of Cornelia Hahn Oberlander. Photo: CCA

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander on Pedagogical Playgrounds gathers texts from the 1960s and 1970s where landscape architect Hahn Oberlander urges city planners and developers to recognize playgrounds as important sites for childhood development and to include them in new construction. She emphasizes the social benefits that free play and independent discovery generate, and provides practical proposals for the formulation of new playgrounds. In pieces including a short history of children’s play, reflections on her own work, and a document urging levels of government to protect children’s right to recreation, Hahn Oberlander responds to austerity by encouraging the use of inexpensive and recycled materials such as sand, water, logs, boards, and tires for use in playgrounds and suggests vacant lots as play sites. She argues that developers and planners must always consult with their users and that children’s input and needs must be considered in playground design. This publication is part of the Building Arguments critical text series copublished by the editorial group of Concordia University Press and the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

Cornlia Hahn Oberlander (1921–2021) was born into a Jewish family in Germany. They left the country after Kristallnacht, settling in the United States. She received a bachelor’s degree from Smith College and in 1947 was one of the first women to graduate from Harvard University’s landscape architecture program. After training with Louis Kahn and Dan Kiley, Oberlander’s practice was dedicated to designing landscapes for low-income housing projects and playgrounds, most famously the Children's Creative Centre and play area for Expo 67. Subsequent projects included gardens at Robson Square in Vancouver, the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Embassy in Washington, the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology, and the New York Times Building atrium, as well as seventy playgrounds in Canada. She was the founder of the National Task Force on Play and was one of the subjects of the documentary City Dreamers (2018), which explored the work of women architects and designers.

Jane Mah Hutton is assistant professor and graduate officer at the University of Waterloo. She is the founding editor of the journal Scapegoat: Architecture, Landscape, Political Economy, and is coeditor of its issues “01 Service” (Other Forms, 2011), “02 Materialism” (Other Forms, 2011), and “06 Mexico D.F./NAFTA” (Other Forms, 2014).

Founded in 2016, Concordia University Press is a nonprofit publisher of peer-reviewed books, series, and pamphlets that cross disciplinary boundaries and propel scholarly inquiry into new areas. The Press values open scholarship and all of its books are available for sale in print and freely accessible online. Current publishing interests emerge from critical questions about the future and past of scholarly thinking and publication, and their impacts on the cultural environment. Concordia University Press is a member of the Association of Canadian University Presses and an affiliate member of the Association of University Presses.