The Centre for Canadian Landscape Architecture Archives
TEXT BY WALTER KEHM, OALA (EMERITUS), FCSLA
A little-known gem resides in the University of Guelph Library. This gem is actually a seed waiting to grow to its full glory, and it is called the Centre for Canadian Landscape Architecture Archives. No, it’s not a dusty set of drawings, plans, and reports tucked away for posterity. Instead, it’s a lively and growing place where landscape architects and others interested in our cultural history can retreat, peruse, and learn about the evolution of our landscapes and the people who helped shape them. In short, the archives illuminates the story of landscape architecture in the province and the landscape architects who have had a significant role in developing our public and private spaces.
The history of the Centre for Canadian Landscape Architecture Archives can be traced to 1977 when Owen Scott, OALA (Emeritus), acquired almost one thousand Dunington-Grubb and Stensson drawings associated with close to 250 projects and deposited them in the holdings of the University of Guelph Library. Then, in 1987, with the initiative of Jack Milliken, OALA (Emeritus), materials related to the Canadian Society of Landscape Architecture Awards came to the University of Guelph. Award-winning slides, images, and plans have been placed annually in the archives since 1998, and the holdings now contain more than 600 projects.
This collection of work was not, in my view, adequate, as the archives lacked critical mass. I was impressed with the work of Phyllis Lambert and the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. On visiting this unique centre, the possibilities for landscape architecture were evident. And thus, I embarked on expanding the University of Guelph archives. A pivotal moment occurred in 1996 when I was the Director of the School of Landscape Architecture at the University of Guelph (1986-2000) and the Tanaka family approached me with a question of how they could preserve and protect the work of George Tanaka. I had been associated with George Tanaka since 1965 when he was the treasurer of our still-forming provincial group known simply as Landscape Architects.
I decided that the University of Guelph and the profession needed a place where materials related to landscape architecture could be placed for posterity. Discussions with library staff ensued and resulted in the formation, in 1998, of the Centre for Canadian Landscape Architecture Archives at the University of Guelph. The George Tanaka documents were the first additions to the already assembled materials from Owen Scott’s collection and the CSLA awards. This was followed by the addition of materials from the work of Lois Lister; du Toit Allsopp Hillier; Cecelia Paine; Frances McLeod Blue; Stanley Thompson; and Project Planning Associates.
I would like to issue a clarion call to all OALA members to participate in “growing” the collection by adding their works to the archive. It should be the repository of our creative efforts, documenting the decades of work by all to shape our landscape and thereby improve the lives of people. As our membership matures, we are witnessing the passing of our founders, whose work should not go into the dustbin of history. I lament that Don Graham’s work, for example, was not included before his passing. As a profession, we should be encouraging scholarly work to explore how our landscapes have been enhanced as a result of our efforts. As the OALA celebrates its 50th anniversary, we have a truly remarkable archive and legacy for the future.
BIO/ WALTER KEHM, OALA (EMERITUS), FCSLA, IS CURRENTLY A VISITING DESIGN CRITIC AND LECTURER AT CARLETON UNIVERSITY’S MASTER IN ARCHITECTURE PROGRAM AND A SENIOR PRINCIPAL AT LANDINC, WITH PROJECTS AT TRILLIUM PARK AT ONTARIO PLACE, THE HUMBER BAY COMMUNITY RECREATION PLAN, AND A VARIETY OF PROJECTS IN EGYPT. HIS CURRENT RESEARCH WORK IS INVOLVED WITH THE DEVELOPMENT OF INDOOR ORANGERIES FOR PRIVATE RESIDENCES.
Support the Centre
TEXT BY KATHRYN HARVEY The Centre for Canadian Landscape Architecture Archives provides an important resource for helping us understand our rich social, cultural, and environmental history. Its diverse holdings require highly specialized knowledge and care in order to make the collections easily accessible to the public and to ensure that archival materials are rehoused into acid-free containers and stored in a proper climate-controlled environment. This degree of specialization comes at a cost, so we always welcome monetary donations to support our efforts. An endowment to help maintain the Centre would be most welcome. Information about monetary donations and endowments (both of which are eligible for tax receipts) is available from Breanna Wells, Senior Development Manager for the Library, at [email protected].
BIO/ KATHRYN HARVEY IS HEAD OF ARCHIVAL AND SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, CENTRE FOR CANADIAN LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE ARCHIVES, AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GUELPH.