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2021 OALA Awards

This week (May 31 – June 4, 2021) we take the time to honour and recognize the volunteers and exceptional members that have contributed to the OALA and emulate fundamental principles of the OALA’s Mission, Vision and Core Values.

The Ontario Association of Landscape Architects awards are the highest recognition the Association can bestow. We celebrate outstanding individuals in the profession and leaders found in our communities.

This is different from the CSLA Awards of Excellence, which recognize projects by landscape architects which will be announced by the CSLA in the coming months.

The OALA Annual Awards Ceremony took place virtually on May 28th, as part of the CSLA-OALA Congress. The Award winners will also be announced this first week of June via e-mail, social media, and will also be posted on the OALA website. The summer issue of OALA Ground Magazine will also feature all OALA Award winners, as well as the OALA members who have been recognized with a CSLA Award this year.

A special thank you to the OALA Honours Awards and Protocol Committee: Chaired by Doris Chee, along with Nelson Edwards, Jim Melvin, Stefan Fediuk, Chen Zixiang and Khatereh Baharikhoob for their time and dedication to ensuring the calibre of the recipients of these awards.

OALA Emeritus Member Award

Emeritus candidates are retired members that have made significant contributions to the profession and the Association during their career.
Outstanding contributions will generally be considered as those that are above and beyond that which is normally provided by a member of the profession and which is of Provincial significance. Emeritus membership is judiciously bestowed by the Association.

Click here to view the e-blast announcement for this award

Gordon Dorrett

Gordon retired in 2019 from his position as President and CEO of Forrec Ltd. He served in that position for nearly 20 years. As the company’s president he visited over 40 countries meeting prime ministers, royalty, millionaires, billionaires, dreamers, schemers, and thieves. Thus, noted in his retirement memo.

Gordon’s work at the helm of Forrec is evident in its wide-ranging field of projects as well as it’s diversification in its staff. Gordon’s leadership brought a plan to Forrec that fostered and facilitated company wide professional development through mentorship and structured learning.

Gordon’s mentorship program fostered the next wave of FORREC leaders (many of whom are landscape architects) and has had an indirect impact on the OALA given that FORREC currently employs and promotes roughly 40 landscape architects and landscape designers. The largest employer of landscape architects in Canada.

Gordon Dorrett name might not be widely known in the OALA, however on the Global Entertainment stage he has been recognized in 2018 as the Blooloop “Top 50 Theme Park Influencers”.

Gordon’s status in the profession and his business acumen ensuring an active livelihood for landscape architects in the future, is the very reason for honouring Gordon with the OALA Emeritus status.

OALA Honorary Award

The Honorary category of membership is for non-landscape architects who have performed notable service in advancing the course of landscape architecture in the Province of Ontario for whom Council wishes to recognize for outstanding contributions in their own fields to improving the quality of natural and human environments.

Click here to view the e-blast announcement for this award

Leo DeSorcy

After 5 years of work in the private sector, Leo DeSorcy joined the City of Toronto in 1988 as an Urban Designer and Planner.  Through that office, many OALA members have met Leo as a hired consultant for studies, or across the approvals table and know him as a strong supporter of the role of landscape architects to build a better Toronto.

His work focused on creating a better public realm, Leo maintains a unique understanding of the historical context and the role of landscape in creating places and is a strong advocate for landscape architecture.

Leo’s concern for the public realm is expressed through the many city-wide studies and policies that he and staff and consulting teams have worked on, to provide guidance on how the City of Toronto grows. These include:

  • City of Toronto Official Plan – Public Ream and Built Form Policies
  • Tall Building and Infill Townhouse and Low-Rise Apartment Guidelines
  • Development Infrastructure Policy – Standards for Local Streets

Under his management, numerous area specific growth plans exploring the challenges of urbanized post war suburbs of Toronto and transforming industrial lands into more equitable, walkable, livable, beautiful, and resilient places.  His commitment to design quality led to the founding of the Design Review Panel. Each of these policies and planning initiatives have and continue to involve landscape architects in the key decision-making roles.

Dr Karen Landman

Dr. Karen Landman, Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Guelph’s School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, and also a BLA graduate of the University of Guelph. Her field of interests continued beyond the Landscape Architecture degree, as she also earned a Master of Science in Planning, followed by a PhD in Cultural Geography. Dr. Landman’s accomplishments have made profound contributions to the profession and to the students of landscape architecture.

Dr. Landman’s contribution to the profession goes beyond her teaching skills. Her tireless work for the profession includes:

  • substantial work on the update of standards and procedures for the accreditation of Canada’s landscape architecture programs
  • an ongoing supporter and contributor to Ground Magazine’s content over the last decade, through her own writing and the writing by her students
  • Program Coordinator for both the University of Guelph’s BLA and MLA programs and the Rural Studies PhD program

Her nomination included overwhelming letters of support and endorsements from faculty, ecologists, landscape architects, park planners and former students. This alone illustrates Dr. Landman’s broad appeal and influence.

Her 55-page lifetime curriculum vitae illustrates the broad spectrum of her research and an impressive commitment to the profession of landscape architecture.

Stefan Szczepanski

Our third new OALA Honorary Member is Mr Stefan Szczepanski or Stef as he’s known professionally.  A graduate of Ryerson University, Stef is educated in the field of landscape architecture and continues to apply his knowledge of design and love for landscape architecture as Manager of the Park Development Department at the City of Mississauga.

Today, Stef oversees a staff of 20 individuals including 14 landscape architects. He consistently insists landscape architects be involved in all City’s Park and Urban Design projects, which is a testament to his commitment to the premise that, Landscape Architects should always be at the forefront of the design process.

Stef has embraced the management role and has further his studies with a Master Certificate in Municipal Leadership from the Schulich School of Business.

His passion for design can be found in many of the parks in Mississauga. These include:

  • The Japanese influence at Kariya Park designed to honour the parks twinning with Kariya, Japan
  • the development of one of the first accessible playground in Ontario at Zonta Meadows Park.
  • O’Connor Park development that saw almost 50% of the park being developed for wetland habitat.
  • And no less than 6 major waterfront parks within the City

His influence and work are evident in the newly planned communities to be developed on the Ontario Power Generation and the Imperial Oil lands in Mississauga. These are large sites of 177 acres and 72 acres, respectively.

Stef’s work has ensured an active and accountable role for landscape architects in the City of Mississauga.

OALA Research & Innovation Award

The OALA Research & Innovation Award recognizes the outstanding leadership, research and/or academic achievements of a member(s), or non-member(s), who, through scholarly activities and/or the development of innovative practices, inclusive of academic papers, research, publications, books, e-applications or public presentations, which contribute to the knowledge base that furthers the advancement of the art, science and practice of landscape architecture.

Click here to view the e-blast announcement for this award

Peter Kells 

Peter is well known to most of us landscape architects. His world revolves around children’s play and safety. Peter is one of Canada’s foremost authorities on playground safety. As a member of the Technical Committee for CSA Z614 “Children’s Playspaces and Equipment” (first published in 1990) Peter was actively involved in helping industry and children’s health and safety experts craft Canada’s first national standard for playground safety with the goal of reducing injuries to children while fostering opportunities for play.

His work provides designers with technical guidance in using Standards to provide safe and ergonomically appropriate spaces for children’s play. He was instrumental in the development of Annex H of CSA Z614 which provides criteria for children’s playgrounds and equipment that are accessible to persons with disabilities. More recently, Peter was a member of the International Standards Organization ISO TC83 working group mandated with harmonizing international Playground Equipment Standards.

Peter’s concern with the safety of children’s play spaces grew to the formation of Grace-Kells Consultant. This firm provides playground safety inspection services to owners and operators.

As an Industrial Designer, Peter spent his early years designing play equipment for several Canadian manufacturers, now Peter has become an advocate of “natural play”. With Peter’s help, the recent update of CSA Z614 has evolved to assist designers with the safe inclusion of natural materials and structures.

Peter is a strong advocate for the profession of Landscape Architecture. He has presented at Evergreen’s annual ‘All Hands in the Dirt’ Forum, and he teaches a 5-day Registered Playground Practitioner Program for the Ontario Parks Association.

For his tireless work involving safety and play, the OALA is pleased to recognize Peter Kells with the OALA Research and Innovation Award.

OALA Community service to Environment

The OALA Award for Community Service to the Environment is a public outreach award given to a non-landscape architectural individual, group, organization, or agency in the Province of Ontario, in recognition of and encouragement for special or unusual contributions for sensitive, sustainable design solutions leading to the improvement of environmental health, community livability and human use of the environment.

Click here to view the e-blast announcement for this award

Dave Harvey and Park People

Dave is the founder and Executive Director of Park People, an independent charity created in 2011 that builds strong communities by animating and improving parks and placing them at the heart of the city.

Dave has many decades of experience managing environmental and municipal issues in government and in politics. He has always brought a thoughtful, solutions-based approach to the wide range of public policy challenges he has helped governments and organizations address. Dave has devised and driven many of the Toronto-region’s most significant greenspace and city building initiatives.

Dave served as Senior Advisor to the Premier of Ontario, working to develop, implement and communicate the Ontario Government’s agenda in the areas of environment, natural resources, and municipal affairs. He played a key leadership role in many aspects of the Ontario Government’s progressive agenda, including the 1.8-million-acre Greenbelt, the GTA Growth Plan and the City of Toronto Act.

Dave Harvey and Park People play an important advocacy role in keeping the environment and park and open space at the forefront of planning and design initiatives in Ontario.

In June 2020, Park People conducted bilingual surveys to learn about the experiences of Canadians and municipalities during COVID-19. The findings from this unique Canadian dataset offer valuable insights into the role of parks during the pandemic, and their role in recovery.

OALA Carl Borgstrom Award for Service to the Environment

The Carl Borgstrom Award for Service to the Environment recognizes an OALA member or landscape architectural group, organization, or agency recognized by OALA whose practice promotes special or unique contributions to sensitive, sustainable design and use of the environment.

Click here to view the e-blast announcement for this award

Jay Cranstone 

Early in his career, Jay had the opportunity to assist with development of Canada’s first Great Trail pavilion site (formerly the Trans Canada Trail), in Caledon East, Ontario.  For over 25 years his work has focussed on managing projects involving research, conceptual planning and design, public consultation, detailed design, and construction related to trails and active transportation facilities in Ontario and a number of other provinces. His tenure with firms including ESG International, Stantec, MMM Group, WSP and most currently, the City of Guelph, has seen Jay evolve into a trail blazer (literally a trail blazer!).

Projects such as:

  • Rouge National Urban Park, Northern Area Trails Planning and Design,
  • Simcoe County and New Tecumseth Trans Canada Trail Designs,
  • Winding Lane Heritage Trail Design, Mississauga
  • City of Guelph Trails Master Plan
  • Lake to Lake Cycling Route and Walking Trail, York Region
  • Lake Huron North Channel Bike Route Study, Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury
  • Virginia River Trail Multi-use Pathway Upgrade, St. John’s, Newfoundland
  • And numerous

It is evident from even a select group of Jay’s projects that he has a love for pedestrian and cycling trail designs through some of Canada’s most majestic country.

OALA Jack Copeland Award for Associate Leadership and Contribution

The Jack Copeland Award for Associate Leadership and Contribution  recognizes the outstanding leadership, and contribution of an associate for going above and beyond to assist fellow associates including being an associate representative on OALA Council.  Jack Copeland was an enthusiastic advocate for Associate members.

Click here to view the e-blast announcement for this award.

Jenny Trinh

Jenny epitomizes what makes Associate leadership. She volunteers on the OALA Social committee and is recognized as the eye for social fun and interaction. She finds venues and organizations to support and hold the OALA events.

However, her dedication doesn’t stop there. She strongly encourages participation from fellow Associate members. Recent activities include the Ottawa Chapter holiday Social with guest speaker Gina Ford, FASLA and principal of the firm Agency in Boston.

Jenny has helped in reaching out to students in the BLA and MLA programs at the University of Guelph about volunteering and becoming active in the OALA. She provided reviews of portfolios and give insight into the LARE exams.

Jenny was also recently elected as the new Junior Associate Representative to OALA Council, for 2021-2023.

We’d also like to mention that accompanying the Jack Copeland Award is a cheque for $500 to help offset the cost of a LARE exam.

OALA David Erb Memorial Award

Justin Whalen

David Erb was an outstanding volunteer in furthering the goals of OALA. The David Erb Memorial Award is a prestigious way to acknowledge an OALA member whose outstanding volunteerism over the years, has contributed to furthering the goals and strategic plans of the OALA as well as, making a real difference to the OALA and its members.

Click here to view the e-blast announcement for this award.

Justin has been an active member of the Association since his first term on Council as Associate Rep in 2016.  Justin’s commitment to the profession encouraged him to remain involved with the association and subsequently, he successfully ran for Council once his Associate term ended.  As a member of Council, he has always been extremely active and always willing to offer advice and assistance, especially when it involves inclusion of Associate and Student Members of the organization. This began through his facilitation of OALA LARE Workshops during his Associate Rep tenure and his ongoing engagement with landscape architecture students at the University of Guelph during OALA presentations. He continues to support associates through his involvement as a PDP reviewer and has previously served on the OALA Honours Awards and Protocol Committee.

Justin assumed the role as Chair of the Social Committee, which has resulted in a great deal of interest in participation by the association’s membership and its affiliates. Through his position as Chair and given his passion for OALA involvement, Justin assists with social events such as the Blue Jays Night Out at the Ballpark, the Bowling Night, Curling Bonspiel, Ski and Golf Days to name a few, engaging and connecting with members.

Justin also sits as a private practice member on the Municipal Outreach Committee to provide a perspective on how municipalities can effectively recruit and retain landscape architects. His involvement has been instrumental in reaching out to the Mayor of Kitchener and the local MPP to raise awareness and help foster the need for Practice Act Legislation for landscape architects.

Justin remained committed to the Association by pursuing another term on Council in 2021. This is a testament to his dedicated volunteerism to the Association, its members, our young aspiring students and associates, and a strong desire to ensure the future of the Association.

OALA Public Practice Award

The OALA Public Practice Award recognizes the outstanding leadership of a member of the profession in public practice who promotes and enhances landscape architecture by working for improved understanding and appreciation of the work of landscape architects in both public and private practice.

Click here to view the e-blast announcement for this award.

Helene Iardas 

Helene has worked for several municipalities during her career: the City of Oshawa, the City of Markham, and the City of Toronto. Helene is a graduate of landscape architecture at the University of Guelph, and she also holds membership with the Ontario Professional Planners Institute.

Her focus at the City of Toronto has been through City Planning, with landscape architecture being the driving force in her planning reviews. Helene has been an essential member of the North York District’s Urban Design team and has had a hand in every major project in North York since amalgamation.  Motivated by her passion for landscape architecture, natural landscapes, cultivated landscapes, she has the remarkable ability to work at different scales.

Helene is both a leader and a team player, and her work often involved forging alliances with various City departments and agencies as well as the private sector to promote integration of streets, parks, and open space with development.

She promoted public art design solutions, was an advocate for recognizing and conserving cultural landscapes, and instrumental in creating ground-breaking policies through imaginative urban design guidelines and secondary plans.  This includes Toronto’s Midtown Public Realm study: Midtown in Focus.

Some of her major works in Toronto are:

  • Don Mills Center
  • Aga Khan Museum
  • Concord Park Place – Streetscape and Urban Design Guidelines
  • York University Secondary Plan, and
  • Percent for Public Art Guidelines

The City of Toronto and other municipalities in the GTA have certainly benefited from Helene’s tireless planning and design work for many years.

Jane Welsh

Jane is the Acting Manager of Policy in the Strategic Initiatives, Policy and Analysis division of Toronto City Planning.

Jane’s 37 years of municipal planning experience include development and implementation of new innovative land use policy tools to address sustainability, resilience, climate change, biodiversity and natural heritage protection such as:

  • the Toronto Green Standard and Green Roof Bylaw;
  • Bird Friendly Guidelines;
  • Toronto’s first Ravine Protection Bylaw, Biodiversity Strategy and CSLA National Award of Excellence winner the Ravine Strategy;
  • the Residential Apartment Commercial (RAC) zone; and
  • the award-winning Biodiversity booklet series and Enduring Wilderness: Toronto Natural Parklands book

Jane was also responsible for preparing the environmental policies for the City of Toronto Official Plan and preparing waterfront plans for Metro Toronto, City of Mississauga and Halton Region Conservation Authority. Throughout her work in public practice, she has been a strong voice for the importance of the role of landscape architecture in city building.

Jane’s long-term advocacy for climate change initiatives has led to her writing articles for Municipal World Magazine and the Landscapes/Paysages spring 2019 issue on Lo! Carbon. She is now recognized by the profession nation-wide as an authority on the landscape architect’s role in combatting Climate Change through resilience, adaptation and mitigation efforts as Chair of the CSLA Committee on Climate Adaptation and its Municipal Roundtable.

Thank you, Jane for your public work and policies leading all to a better environment and a more manageable climate change.