Life on Campus / Spring 2012
Scholarship Honours Toronto Developer

Friends and family of the late Paul Oberman have created an award for architecture and urban design


Paul Oberman


A new award in the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, created to honour the memory of Toronto developer Paul Oberman, will provide opportunities for graduate students in architecture and urban design to conduct research in a city abroad.

The award, valued at approximately $12,000, will be given annually to two students so they can study first-hand how urban areas around the world are coping with rapid transformation. “In our field, the opportunity to actually visit, see and experience buildings and cities is essential,” says Richard Sommer, dean of the Daniels Faculty.

In particular, cities in lower-income countries with large urban populations – such as India, China and Brazil – face vastly different challenges from what students would encounter in Toronto. “It’s very difficult to understand architecture and landscape architecture in an isolated way,” says Sommer. “To be able to see things as they play out in a particular geography and cultural place is important.”

Oberman, the former CEO of Woodcliffe Corporation, was known throughout the architectural community for his commitment to heritage properties, and for his innovative approach to renovating and preserving them. Toronto’s Summerhill train station, which was converted into an award-winning LCBO outlet, King James Place and the Gooderham Flatiron Building are three of his landmark achievements.

Eve Lewis (MScPl 1981), who was married to Oberman and collaborated with him on many projects, says he restored old buildings to their former grandeur, but added modern conveniences and a contemporary design to create greater value. “I don’t think there’s anyone else in the city who put the time, money and attention to detail into historic buildings,” she says. “He had a design sense that very few people have, and proved that you can succeed financially as a heritage developer – and contribute to your community as well.”

In the wake of his death, at age 53, in a plane crash last year, Oberman’s family and friends in the architecture, design and heritage community garnered more than $200,000 in donations and provincial and faculty funding to create the Paul Oberman Graduate Student Endowment Fund. Oberman never attended university himself, but saw significant value in higher education. “He understood that most people need that education, that connection. He really believed in its importance,” says Lewis.

Lewis adds that he would have been pleased that so many people provided support for the award, and gratified that “it gives students a chance to dream like he did – to become visionaries and leaders.”

Watch a video about Paul Oberman’s impact on Toronto


Reader Comments

# 1
Posted by Lena on April 8th, 2012 @ 10:00 pm

Paul Oberman has had such a powerful impact on the conservation of historic Toronto sites and forward-thinking ideas of incorporating historic buildings into the modern fabric of our city.

It is also inspirational that Paul did not attend university and became such a prominent figure in the architectural community. I am incredibly interested to hear of his story of having achieved such prominence without a university education as it is very difficult to achieve without having family money or connections behind such an endeavor.

Please do share to be an inspiration to those that do not have the opportunity to use a degree or the connections met through attending post-secondary school to pursue similar goals.

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