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In memory of Professor Alexander Rattray Founder and First Head Department of Landscape Architecture Faculty of Architecture 50 Years of Learning and Teaching Landscape Architecture in Manitoba 1972-2022

MLA 50th Anniversary Celebration: TREEMORIAL

August 21, 2023 — 

Fort Garry Campus and Canale di Brenta, Italy – March to May 2023

Old-grown trees provide shade, store carbon, and cultivate memories. The Department of Landscape Architecture celebrated its 50th Anniversary with events throughout the 2022/23 academic year. A tree planting held on May 30th celebrated 50 years of landscape architecture at the University of Manitoba, as well as Alexander Rattray, founder and first head of the Department. This horticultural initiative by Dietmar Straub was intended to be a humble but long-lasting contribution to the Fort Garry Campus tree canopy.



The attendance of so many people for this meaningful event proved to be a great pleasure. Ultimately, Anna Thurmayr welcomed around 30 people. The attendees successfully transformed the tree planting into a dignified final happening for the MLA 50th Anniversary Celebration year. Alex’s daughter Jennifer Moore Rattray, including her husband and son participated, and it was great to see the family happy.

“Thank you SO much for the Treemorial moment in honour of my father, my family and I are so appreciative of all of your work to make it happen!

The tree is beautiful, and the sign is absolutely perfect – my dad would love that it is recycled from campus wood.  Thank you also for asking the Elder to bless the tree and to start us off in a good way. 

Thank you again, …. we are feeling so grateful,”


Old elms are vital pillars of public and communal life in Winnipeg and are an essential aspect of the future landscape of Winnipeg. However, the green heritage is in serious trouble. Dutch Elm Disease and the elm bark beetle are rapidly gnawing the essential tree away. Alumni, students, and staff planted a Triumph Elm (Ulmus ‘Morton Glossy’) close to the north entrance of the John A. Russell Building. In consultation with campus arborist Les Wellwood, the Ulmus hybrid cultivar was chosen due to its excellent resistance to Dutch elm disease and its decent resistance to the elm leaf beetle.

The tree planting began with a ceremony. Valdie Seymour, the Faculty’s Elder in Residence, blessed the tree and placed tobacco at its foot. Shortly after, former department heads Charles (Charlie) Thomsen and Ted McLachlan shared stories of Alex’s time at the department, recounting his achievements with evident pleasure. Kellen Deighton from the Faculty’s Workshop graciously fabricated a memorial plaque from a salvaged piece of university oak which commemorates Alexander Rattray’s lasting impact and the department’s creation 50 years ago. After covering the root ball with soil, deep watering and placing the inscription next to it, attendees enjoyed snacks, beverages, and laughter in the shade of the Russell Building.

Honouring Alexander Rattray’s engagement in an Italian Field Studies and Studio Program, Charlie Thomsen organized a matching memorial tree in Italy. Alex’s wife, Angela Luverà, attended the planting ceremony in Canale di Brenta (Oliero Caves) in March 2023. The transatlantic tree siblings form a lasting and spatial TREEMORIAL!

“And when we are close to trees, we find a new measure for ourselves, smaller, or larger, but real and physical. With trees we know space.” 1

We want to grow this tree. The term growing refers to ongoing involvement, active stewardship, and remembrance. Over its first summer, the elm received a water supply to ensure enough fluid for its leaves and their chlorophyll to transform sunlight into sugar. Hopefully, soon, the tree will develop a towering canopy, allowing people to enjoy the shade underneath.

At maturity, a Triumph elm can grow up to 60 feet tall with a spread of 40 feet. Close your eyes and imagine the tree at the 100th Anniversary of the Landscape Architecture program. The hope is that a leafy canopy with dark green summer foliage followed yellow in the fall will provide a pleasant welcome for future generations celebrating the centennial, revealing layers of history.


1 Hilderbrand, G. R. Editor (1997): Making a Landscape of Continuity, The Practice of Innocenti & Webel, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Graduate School of Design, p. 34


Photo credits: all photos taken by Dietmar Straub




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