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In Memoriam

Professor H. Peter Oberlander, founder of the School of Community & Regional Planning and Centre for Human Settlements at the University of British Columbia, passed away on December 27, 2008. Just a month before his passing, Peter and his life partner Cornelia had been recognized in the Council Chambers of the City of Vancouver for their many contributions to enhancing the City’s public realm over a period spanning half a century.

Peter Oberlander’s many friends, colleagues and admirers, including those here at UBC, would like to remember him as an inspiring figure in the progressive planning of cities and urban communities, not only in Vancouver and across the Dominion he dearly loved, but also in the larger international community. Over his long working life Peter assumed important, indeed often decisive, leadership roles in advancing the cause of human settlements planning, notably in his work for the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS), the progenitor of CHS at UBC; within federal agencies; and, very often, more informally through a diversity of NGOs and ad hoc groups, where his ceaseless advocacy was often transmitted into positive action. Peter had a particular passion for public and social housing, and was a great contributor to a succession of housing programs which in large part have defined the quality of postwar public policy in Canada at the level of the state as well as local government. He maintained his engagement in urban planning during his last years, including involvement in the World Urban Forums of 2006 (Vancouver) and 2008 (Beijing), the Habitat forums of 1976 (Vancouver) and 1996 (Istanbul), and, most recently, the establishment of the Habitat Exchange here at UBC, an interactive legacy of what we’ve collectively learned about planning for human settlements.

What many of us at SCARP/CHS will cherish most of all about Peter, aside from his innumerable tangible accomplishments, is the memory of his irrepressible optimism, energy and commitment. The irreducible essence of planning, after all, is a powerful commitment to working for a better future, and Peter’s life and works captured the spirit of this vocation to a very high degree indeed.



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Centre for Human Settlements
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