Victor Chanasyk

Year of Investiture:

Victor Chanasyk grew up on a homestead at Musidora, Alberta, where he developed his life-long love of the land. He spoke of his youth as an uninhibited, unconstrained time, punctuated by hours spent riding the summer range, swimming his saddle horse across lake narrows, and riding through “sweet and fragrant clouds of silver berry.”

By 1949, Victor Chanasyk had earned an agriculture degree from the University of Alberta, and begun work as a horticulturist at the Beaverlodge Experimental Station, where he introduced such notable horticultural varieties as the Wapiti Juniper and the Chanasyk Early Tomato that bears his name.

Six years later, his passion for landscape led him to Berkeley for a degree in Landscape Architecture (1957), and then, on scholarship, to Harvard (Masters, 1958). He first practiced his new profession in Seattle and San Francisco, but was invited to return to Canada in 1962 to the University of Guelph, and given a mission: to establish Canada’s first School of Landscape Architecture.

Working with faculty from the fields of agrology, architecture and planning, Professor Chanasyk developed a curriculum closely equivalent to some 17 programs in the United States. This major achievement, long advocated by the CSLA, marked an auspicious beginning for LA education in Canada. The ten LAs in the first graduating class of 1969 became noted practitioners and educators, and under Chanasyk’s leadership, the program matured and grew. Chanasyk is often called the Father of LA education in Canada. In 1991, he established the “Victor Chanasyk Medal for Professionalism”, awarded to a promising Guelph student who embodied his own professional ideals: Ethics, Altruism, Education and Stewardship. 

Chanasyk was also involved in developing the university’s Master of Science in Resource Management, and proposed the establishment of the 440-acre University of Guelph Arboretum. Over the years, he served in numerous professional societies, notably as president of both the Washington Society of Landscape Architects and the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects (OALA), and Chairman of the Urban Renewal Committee in Guelph.  He was awarded the Centennial Medal of Canada, and named both a Member Emeritus of the OALA, and a Life Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

He is remembered as a man of principle, an altruist who placed public good above personal interest. He never lost his dedication to land planning and residential garden design. His own rural property, rich in native plant communities, served as an outdoor classroom for generations of students, and his home garden attracted thousands of visitors, and enjoyed international television coverage.

In 1999, working with 20 landowners, Chanasyk launched the Wellington Society for the Countryside, encouraging grassroots action for the rural environment. The Society is still active today, working with landowners to “make a difference”. 

Prepared with Linda Irvine


For Further Reading:

Victor Chanasyk: Could You Start a School Today? The Man Behind the First Landscape Architecture Program in Canada.  Linda Irvine. Landscapes Paysages. LP Plus, Summer 2016.Vol. 18, No. 2. Canadian Society of Landscape Architects. 


Photos courtesy Linda Irvine.
Lead photo: Victor Chanasyk 
1 Victor Chanasyk grew up on a farm in Musidora, near Innisfree, Alberta
2 Horticulturist, 1949-1955: Canada Research Station, Beaverlodge, Alberta 
3 Victor with his wife, Lillian 
4 The first graduating class and staff, University of Guelph BLA program, 1969 
5 University of Guelph: the Victor Chanasyk Medal for Professionalism 
6 Professor Chanasyk with Linda Irvine 
7 Chanasyk launched the Wellington Society for the Countryside, which is still active today

CSLA | AAPC 12 Forillon Crescent, Ottawa ON K2M 2W5