50 years of landscape architecture education at the University of Guelph

By Stephanie Craig

The University of Guelph is celebrating 50 years of landscape architecture in September with a special event and a project recognizing its notable alumni.

The Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) has taught ornamental horticulture since its founding in 1874, but by the 1950s an increasing number of OAC graduates were completing post-graduate landscape architecture degrees in the United States. These graduates often returned to Canada, bringing back their skills and knowledge. As a result, the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects lobbied Canadian academic institutions to establish landscape architecture programs for Canadian students.

In 1962, Victor Chanasyk was appointed by OAC to develop and launch a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) program, making him the first landscape architect posted to a post-secondary position in Canada. Chanasyk was charged with developing a program that was the first of its kind and supported by the profession.

“Professor Chanasyk understood the program needed to offer students strong technical skills, but also extensive knowledge of design theory,” says Prof. Karen Landman, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development (SEDRD).

In 1964 he achieved this goal when the University Senate approved the BLA program at the newly established University of Guelph. Ten years later, U of G launched the Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) program, the second of its kind in Canada and the first in Ontario.

The graduate level program offered a more focused effort on research. Today, students and faculty undertake research in areas such as sustainable communities, urban design, national parks and conservation areas, ecological restoration, golf courses, therapeutic landscapes, and urban waterfronts and parks.

“I think most landscape architects would describe their work as a profession that improves our quality of life,” says Landman. “They use their creativity and technical and scientific skills to manage and create environments that are attractive, functional and innovative.”

Since 1964, U of G has graduated nearly 1,500 landscape architecture students, who make up a large percentage of practicing and academic landscape architects in Canada. Perhaps the most exciting part of their legacy is the mark that the five decades of students have left on the local landscape and beyond.

“We wanted to celebrate and recognize the fantastic alumni that have come out of the landscape architecture program,” says Prof. Sean Kelly, SEDRD. “We started by collecting information on 50 notable alumni, but couldn’t stop there. We have over 70 alumni profiles complete and plan to keep adding to it.”

To celebrate the 50-year milestone, a series of special events will be held on campus Sept. 18-20 (Homecoming weekend), including a “meet and greet” reception, two social breakfasts and an anniversary gala. To register, visit the SEDRD web site.