Winnipeg landscape architect dies, leaving legacy at The Forks, Upper Fort Garry

Winnipeg landscape architect Garry Hilderman died last week but his work on some of the most-recognized spots in the city will live on, including the Oodena Celebration Circle at The Forks, Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park and the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden at Assiniboine Park.

'What I really valued in Garry is he had a very long-term, holistic view,' says Garry Hilderman's co-worker

Garry Hilderman died on Jan. 21, 2016. (HTFC Planning and Design)

Winnipeg landscape architect Garry Hilderman died last week but his work on what many consider the most beautiful spots in the city will live on.

His most prominent work includes the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden at Assiniboine Park, the Oodena Celebration Circle at The Forks, Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park, FortWhyte Alive and Oak Hammock Marsh.

The Oodena Celebration Circle was singularly Hilderman's vision and design, said Jim Thomas, a principal at the firm HTFC Planning and Design, which was founded by Hilderman, who died Jan. 21 at age 75.

The Oodena Celebration Circle gives visitors a chance to witness the solstice sunrise or follow the paths of the brightest stars in the sky. (CBC)
"He brought together a bunch of ideas that I think were part of his personal philosophy related to the relationship between humans and the landscape," said Thomas. "But also a very deep level, getting in touch with the roots of indigenous culture, the cosmos."
Garry Hilderman is remembered for his work on the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden at Assiniboine Park. ((CBC))
When Hilderman had an idea, it was difficult to get him to think of anything else, Thomas said. 

"He was tenacious," he said. "He had a gruff exterior and I think sometimes younger staff and students would be intimidated by him but … as I got to know him over the years, I realized that he was really a pussycat inside that rather tiger exterior."

Hilderman's designs were often inspired by his fascination with the relationship between people and the environment, Thomas said.

"He might say that his greatest legacy is Upper Fort Garry," said Thomas. "His focus on that project and for that provincial park was looking at ways in which this site can be used as an opportunity for young people to engage with history and democracy."

Garry Hilderman was a founding board member of Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park. (Trevor Chilton/CBC)
Hilderman sat on many boards and committees in Winnipeg, including The Forks Renewal Corporation design review committee, Balmoral Hall School, the University of Manitoba's faculty of architecture and FortWhyte Alive.

In November 2010, Hilderman was inducted into the Order of Canada for his development and conservation of parks, historic sites and environmental projects in Manitoba as a landscape architect and volunteer.

Garry Hilderman contributed to FortWhyte Alive. (CBC)
"I'm going to miss the opportunity to sit down with him and have a chat," said Thomas. "What I really valued in Garry is he had a very long-term, holistic view."

A celebration of Garry's life will be held this spring at Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park.

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