OALA AGM 2015 in Guelph, Ontario

Published On: 27 March 2015


It was that time of the year for another day of AGM and conference for the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects (OALA). A special significance was attached to this year’s Conference, with myself (Dalia) as Co-Chair of CEC orchestrating a big role in the organization of the Conference keynote and speakers, and Kendall receiving a prestigious award for her progressive influence as a Volunteer founding and creating the organization’s MCE Program.

The theme for the Year related to the role of leadership Landscape Architects bring to bettering the health of the planet, economically, ecologically, socially, and aesthetically, and the significance that demonstration of leadership has to the role. The Keynote feature was delivered by David Miller, one of Toronto’s most beloved and progressive past mayors. He is a leading figure recognized for his strong-willed fight for better transit planning, for the importance of community leadership in city planning, and for bringing focus and drive back to environmental reform programs at local legislation. Despite David’s strictly non-landscape architectural/design background, his presentation delivered an inspirational delve into the importance of demonstrating leadership and precedence in our position as landscape architects, to embrace consideration of resiliency and a whole systems approach in our designs, and to understand the dynamic of ripples of social influence that trail behind.

This year the Conference ended on a memorable note, bringing us back to the roots of the profession. Linda Irvine, Victor Chanasyk’s niece, spoke to us at the President’s Reception with a warm demeanour, inspiring and bringing together a collective of older and younger alumni and students of the professional program to celebrate Victor’s legacy of founding the professional school and faculty. It was enjoyable to be back at the iconic ‘Pit’ in the Landscape Architecture building for the Reception, a place in the hearts of many where some of their best experiences and changing moments were shared in the course of their educational journey at the University of Guelph Landscape Architecture program.

In my involvement with the Continuing Education Committee, I wanted to bring attention to Guelph-local places that are iconic public spaces, demonstrating culturally progressive Landscape architectural design. A series of two organized tours were led by Colin Berman of Brook McIllroy and Janet Rosenberg and Jessica Hutcheon of Janet Rosenberg + Studio, as well as Ian Panabaker (City of Guelph) of each of the Guelph Civic Museum, and Guelph Market Square, respectively. It was a sunny and crisply cold Saturday morning as we walked across the downtown from site to site with the tour leaders, listening to some insight on the process of planning those important public spaces in the city and on the designers’ role as leaders in the process, coordinating public needs with the broader City planning vision.

I joined the Guelph Market Square tour that morning and some of its most recognized elements was accessible design through the use of tactility in the clay paving pattern and layout. As one traverses the square, the tactile bumps of the pavers guide you along areas of mixed paving and areas of strictly pedestrian paving to delineate the uses, as well property ownerships by municipal divisions on an intangible level. Other interesting features include 100% SPD compaction of the vehicular area sub-grade to support a uniform hardscape across the space from one end of the square to the sidewalk on the other end of the street. The Kentucky Coffee trees are an undeniable part of the charm of the square with their wayward upright branching forms, their sculptural stance and their dark brown bark appealing to human sight as it contrasts the pavement to form a ‘silhouette’. Due to limited tree trenching, soil volume, and heavily tread pedestrian pavement, they were chosen for their root resiliency in compacted soil and attested thriving success in harsh urban environments.

The soon-to-be-completed landscape design for the Guelph Civic Museum involved a contextual understanding of contemporary use intersecting with the history of a Convent building, as explained.