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History of the Profession in Canada

The term landscape architect was first used in 1860 to describe the professional landscape design activities of Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York City’s Central Park. Olmsted, considered North America’s most influential landscape architect, also designed Mount Royal Park in Montreal.

Frederick Todd, one of the earliest practitioners of landscape architecture in Canada, had worked in the Olmsted office. In the early 1900s, Todd developed many of the original concepts for the now-familiar settings of Ottawa and the National Capital Region. He popularized naturalistic landscape designs and the idea of a “necklace of parks” as linked open spaces – a concept still used today.

Landscape architecture was formally organized as a profession in Canada in 1934 with the formation of the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects and Town Planners (CSLA) in Toronto.

During the next three decades, the profession in Canada grew under the eye of the national society which set standards for its membership. Foremost among the small but energetic group of landscape architects of the period were Howard and Lorrie Dunington-Grubb who designed many projects in Toronto and southern Ontario, including University Avenue. In the 1960s, Macklin Hancock, with the firm of Project Planning, designed Don Mills – the first planned community in Canada. This became the prototype for Canada’s suburbs.

By the mid-1960s, the University of Guelph offered the province’s first program in landscape architecture – the forerunner of today’s School of Landscape Architecture. Soon after, the University of Toronto approved a landscape architecture curriculum.

Independent, provincial chapters of the national association were established as the profession expanded.

History of OALA

In 1968, the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects (OALA) was founded. The goal of this self-regulating association is the improvement, advancement, and promotion of the profession of landscape architecture. The association maintains standards of professional practice and conduct to serve and protect the public interest.

The association administers the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects Act, 1984 which includes responsibility for:

  • regulating professional standards
  • accreditation for the profession
  • maintaining and improving the examining process
  • approving educational and professional development standards

In 2018, OALA celebrated 50 years of landscape architecture in Ontario. To celebrate this golden anniversary the Legacy Task Force conducted a series of interviews with Ontario landscape architects who have made unique or significant contributions to the Association’s legacy and history.

In addition, OALA compiled retrospectives from Past Presidents that highlight our shared history as a profession. Click the links below to access the individual retrospectives.