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Civil landscapes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 March 2023

Rita Elizabeth Risser*
United Arab Emirates University, United Arab Emirates.


Drawing on philosophical writings ranging from the Enlightenment and the Romantics through to the contemporary world - including, among others, Rousseau, Hegel, and Thoreau - I explore the civil dimensions of Cornelia Hahn Oberlander’s gardens and landscape designs. I argue that Oberlander’s landscapes are not merely visual delights; they are civil, humanist works. I survey a selection of her designs, from collaborations with Arthur Erickson and Renzo Piano to her public housing projects and the playgrounds that she designed in-and-around her home of Vancouver, Canada. A secondary argument I make is that Oberlander’s gardens and landscapes are not merely aesthetic objects, but artworks, and they do the work of art as Hegel describes it: showing us something of our human spirit, and specifically our creative and political geist.

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© The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press

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