As a 12-year old living in Berlin, Gunter Schoch knew that he wanted to become a forester. But just a few years later, in the final years of the Second World War, Gunter was drafted. He was 17, and after hostilities ended, the fragmentation of his city and his country made forestry impossible. Gunter instead studied horticulture and then landscape architecture, graduating in 1950.
Schoch was hired by the City of Berlin Parks Department as West Berlin focused on rebuilding its devastated parks system. It was an exciting time, Schoch remembered, but in three years, Schoch and his family immigrated to Canada, arriving in Winnipeg during a prairie winter.
Schoch was the first professionally trained landscape architect to settle in the city. The first years were not easy: he began once again working in greenhouses and landscape gardening. But by 1955, he had joined Winnipeg Parks and Recreation; in seven more years he became city landscape architect, and in 1980, he was made director of planning and development, a position he held until his retirement in 1989.
Many of Winnipeg’s public spaces bear the hallmarks of Schoch’s design. In the sixties, landscape architecture became an intrinsic part of the city planning. Schoch initiated aesthetic treatments for modern street interchanges (St. Vital and St. James), and superintended so many street improvements that the American Institute of Landscape Architects applauded Schoch as “The Man of Streetscapes” (October 1972). In 1973, he was named a Fellow of the ASLA.
Regional parks, too, saw massive growth. Schoch and the director of Assiniboine Park Zoo redeveloped the zoo to create what Schoch called “a real zoological park”, a completely pedestrian environment that vastly improved conditions for both animals and visitors. Schoch designed the City’s busiest golf course (Crescent Drive Park), and worked to develop year-round park amenities throughout the city, designing the much-loved pond beside the Peguis Pavilion in Kildonan Park which becomes a skating pond in winter. For North Kildonan where he lived, Schoch also chaired the rural municipal parks board (1963-65), then later served as municipal arborist (1967-74). His model street tree program is in full maturity today.
Schoch served the Manitoba Parks and Recreation Association (President, 1975/76), as well as Manitoba’s Environmental Council and the planning committee for the International Peace Garden. His dedication to LA professional organizations was extraordinary. He was a charter member of the Manitoba Association of Landscape Architects, its first Executive Director (1989-96), and its treasurer for 20 years. He was treasurer too for the Landscape Architecture Canada Foundation and secretary-treasurer for the College of Fellows (1992-2008).
A dedicated genealogist, he researched family records to the 13th century, and his interest in landscape architecture history is annually recognized by the LACF Günter A. Schoch Bursary, which promotes professional research.
Ron Williams. Landscape Architecture in Canada. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014
Linda Le Geyt. Gunter Arthur Schoch, in Changing the Face of Canada, Profiles of Landscape Architects, Volume II. CSLA, 1998.
Gunter Schoch at Winnipeg Parks and Recreation and at Metro Parks, in Making a Place: A History of Landscape Architects and Landscape Architecture in Manitoba, by Catherine Macdonald. MALA, 2005.
1. City of Winnipeg archival photo: The pond outside of the Chief Peguis Pavilion in Kildonan Park, built in 1964.
2. Aunt Sally's Farm, in the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Photo by Gunter A. Schoch, Landscape Architect. Metropolitan Corporation of Greater Winnipeg's Parks and Protection Division.