LEES+Associates at 25 Years!

The LEES+Associates team

To celebrate our 25th anniversary, we wanted to tell you a little about where LEES+Associates started and reflect on how far we’ve come!

When Erik and Kathi Lees started LEES+Associates in 1998, he built on his long experience in horticulture, landscape design, and parks management. Erik started as part of the “Back to the Land” movement of the early 1970s. Motivated by a deep commitment to environmentalism and an interest in land systems, Erik started his “landscape” journey with a Dutch family in the Nelson area who maintained a greenhouse that grew seasonal plants. This experience led to a horticultural apprenticeship program, summer work in landscape installations, and eventually, to working for the City of Nelson, running the greenhouse for their parks during the Nelson Main Street Revitalization project of the 1980s. After experiencing park work, Erik pursued a degree in landscape architecture at UBC. While there, he also began a job as the parks manager for the District of West Vancouver, which he held for a decade. Erik in greenhouse

While working in West Vancouver, Erik oversaw the Capilano View Cemetery. He’d long had an interest in sacred spaces, as both a designer and a planner. Cemeteries are expected to bring together notions of sacredness, meaning, and ceremony, but Erik was also interested in seeing how he could bring that design perspective to parks and landscapes more broadly.

These experiences in horticulture, parks, cemeteries, and the public sector were key to Erik’s development as a landscape architect. In 1998, when Erik opened the doors of LEES+Associates, he knew that his ability to bring together a love of design with knowledge of the mechanics and operations of park systems would allow him to fill an important niche in the market. There were very few competitors working with cemeteries and memorials – and they weren’t seeing them through an experiential lens or a business lens the way that Erik was.

Erik and Kathi LeesLEES+Associates started with just Erik and Kathi. Erik had the background in landscape architecture while Kathi brought her interest in history, art, and museums. She played a critical role in the administration and strategy of the firm. The firm started growing almost immediately, hiring about one new employee per year. LEES+Associates’ office on Homer Street in Vancouver opened in 2001, followed by offices in Toronto in 2014 and Whitehorse in 2016.

With a strong design team, we were recognized for our work across multiple specialties, receiving awards for memorials, cemetery design, and parks and trails planning. Some of our award-winning projects include the Woodlands Memorial, Everett Crowley Park Management Plan, the Air India Memorial, Mountain View Cemetery redevelopment, the Komagata Maru Memorial, and Toronto’s Natural Environment Trail Strategy. Most recently, the Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery project received awards from both the CSLA and ASLA for reflecting the essence of a landscape with restrained embellishment and connecting the land to the people of the community.

New owners of LEES+associates

In 2020, Heidi Redman, Richard Cook, and Megan Turnock took the helm, although Erik continues to be involved. The firm has grown significantly in the past three years. Heidi spearheaded the opening of LEES’ office in Whitehorse, which has led to increasing work in the north. Dealing with permafrost and working in arctic and remote landscapes has its unique challenges and LEES is excited to continue building this specialization. Richard directs the cemeteries and memorials practice area; he is excited to help cemeteries deal with some of the real challenges that are coming as attitudes about death and burial change and the generation of Baby Boomers begins to pass. Megan leads the firm’s work in parks and trails planning, building on her background in ecosystem restoration. The firm has been expanding its practice to include civic, cultural, and institutional projects, as well as embarking on expansion in Ontario and into the U.S.

As LEES moves into its second quarter century, we want to celebrate and build on our successes. In our newsletters for the next year, we’ll be revisiting some of our foundational projects and sharing stories from our past. We’re excited for the next 25 years!


 

Elk Falls Cemetery

The development of the expansion of Elk Falls Cemetery has reached an exciting point!
The LEES+Associates cemetery design team was recently in Campbell River, BC to review the clearing and top soil grading at the Cemetery.

Elk Falls Cemetery

Elk Falls Cemetery
The concept is for a series of lawned burial pods or ‘rooms’ nestled within the existing forest. The cemetery driveway linking the burial pods has just been installed with hydroseeding of lawns and meadows slated for this week.

Section names, markers, and benches will be installed through the fall. It is hoped burial lots will be made available for sale around fall 2022.

Elk Falls Cemetery
Elk Falls Cemetery
When completed, this will be a stunning tranquil and beautiful gladed landscape for families to lay their loved ones to rest.

For more information on the design, please reach out to the LEES cemetery design team headed by Richard Cook, Principal and Patrick Beech, Landscape Designer.
Local partner Outlook provided civil engineering services for the cemetery driveway.

Elk Falls Cemetery

Veteran’s Cemetery in Esquimalt, BC

Esquimalt Veteran's Cemetery

It was a big day for one of LEES+Associate’s flagship projects!

The Minister of Veteran’s Affairs, Lawrence MacAulay was at the Veteran’s Cemetery (previously known as God’s Acre) in Esquimalt, BC to celebrate the completion of significant upgrades to this sacred burial ground.

Originally a burial ground for Canadian Navy men and women, God’s Acre has been the burial ground for Canadian Army, Navy and Air Services personnel for decades. The first burial at the cemetery was in 1868.

The expansion includes 1400 new columbaria, a scattering garden and room for burying cremated remains. As well, new paving, curbs and signage have been installed with finishing touches expected by the end of March.

LEES+Associates is honoured to be the landscape architects on the God’s Acre expansion project; we are proud of our work for Canadian veterans over the last two decades.

Official opening of the cemetery will take place on May 28th, during the annual Candlelight Ceremony honouring veterans and serving members.

God’s Acre Veterans Cemetery, a national historic site, is located off Colville Road inside Gorge Vale Golf Course.
Esquimalt Veteran's Cemetery
Esquimalt Veteran's Cemetery

Esquimalt Veteran's Cemetery
Esquimalt Veteran's Cemetery

Walk Through Kelowna Legacy Gardens, [Video]

Last month LEES+Associates attended the annual British Columbia Funeral Association (BCFA) Conference and Exhibitor’s Showcase in Kelowna, BC.

While in Kelowna, our staff took the opportunity to visit the Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery to check out the more than 150 year old cemetery’s newest section for cremated remains and above ground crypts.

In 2014, LEES+Associates completed a master plan for the cemetery and was retained by the City to assist with the burial expansion strategy outlined in the master plan. Work began in 2016 with the preparation of construction documents for the new area dubbed the Legacy Gardens.

In the video above, Richard Cook walks through a section of the garden; the Legacy Garden area offers columbaria niches and mausolea crypts in a picturesque landscape setting. Visit the project profile page for more on the project.
kelowna legacy gardens

LEES+Associates at the ASLA Conference

Erik Lees was in Philadelphia last month to attend the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) annual conference and to receive an Honor Award in the Professional Awards category for LEES+Associates’ design of the Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery.

ASLA Awards Ceremony / Photo Credit:EPNAC [Photo credit: EPNAC]

Located on an 8 ½ acre site on Baffin Island’s Frobisher Bay, the Iqaluit Cemetery project was recognized for its strong geometries, simple forms, creative use of natural materials.
The design honours indigenous traditions, juxtaposing artifacts and features significant in Inuit culture with contemporary, custom-cut weathering steel panels.

Recognized for its restrained approach, the project received the award for a design that, in the words of a juror, “let the place be what it is.”

ASLA Awards Ceremony / Photo Credit:EPNAC[Photo credit: EPNAC]

ASLA Awards Ceremony / Photo Credit:EPNAC[Photo credit: EPNAC]

Iqaluit Cemetery Project wins ASLA Award

The power of the place is extraordinary, and the decision to keep it simple and subdued is brilliant. The place honors the community’s ancestors. There are certain times when you’re working with a landscape that’s so beautiful, the best thing to do is as little as possible — 2018 Awards Jury

Iqaluit Cemetery

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) recently announced winners for its 2018 Professional Awards and our Iqaluit Cemetery project won an Honor Award in the General Design category.

Honouring the best in landscape architecture from around the world, the ASLA received 374 entries this year of which 25 received awards.

LEES+Associates will be attending the ASLA Annual Meeting in Philadelphia this October where we’ll be delighted to receive this award.

Visit the project awards page or read more about the Iqaluit Cemetery project here.

Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery

Iqaluit Cemetery

Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery

Iqaluit Cemetery

Pioneer Cemetery Grand Re-Opening

Pioneer Cemetery, Whitehorse

We were thrilled to attend the Pioneer Cemetery grand re-opening ceremony this week hosted by the City of Whitehorse.

The cemetery has been revitalized with the re-leveling and cleaning of more than 200 headstones, recognition of unmarked graves, a new perimeter loop path, and a new main entrance plaza including interpretive panels, ornamental fencing and entry arch, designed by LEES+Associates and our partners at Inukshuk Planning.

It is gratifying to see community members using the walking paths, and reconnecting with the stories and heritage embedded in the site. The cemetery has been transformed into a welcoming place of remembrance and important community open space for downtown residents and visitors. If you visit the site, be sure to check out the interpretive panels and look out for the graves of many Yukon pioneers, including Martha Louise Black, the second woman to serve as MP in Canada.

Congrats to the City of Whitehorse and everyone involved in the project! Here are some photos from the ceremony.

Pioneer Cemetery, Whitehorse

Pioneer Cemetery, Whitehorse

Pioneer Cemetery, Whitehorse

Pioneer Cemetery, Whitehorse

Pioneer Cemetery, Whitehorse

Pioneer Cemetery, Whitehorse

Last Post Fund Monument at Mountain View Cemetery

Last Post Fund Monument

Last Post Fund Monument

In spite of last week’s cold and rain, crews at Vancouver’s Mountain View Cemetery installed a long-awaited new monument in the Abray South Veterans Section.

Designed as a two piece gateway feature for a future pedestrian precinct, the new monument includes interpretive signage in both official languages. They tell the story of the Last Post Fund, and recognize the role of this organization in ensuring that all Canadian veterans receive a proper and dignified burial.

LEES+Associates worked with Mountain View and the LPF on this project. The monument features Dibond panels installed on custom precast concrete elements, pinned into locally quarried and fabricated granite bases.

Last Post Fund Monument

Last Post Fund Monument

Last Post Fund Monument

Last Post Fund Monument

Photographs courtesy of Wayne Worden.

Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery

We couldn’t resist sharing these sunny snowy day shots of the Legacy Gardens at Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery.
In 2016, LEES+Associates undertook the preparation of construction documents for this new precinct of the cemetery.

The Legacy Gardens design provides additional cremation niche and mausolea crypt inventory by transforming an existing service road around the Bennett Memorial into a premium cremation garden.

Legacy Gardens at Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legacy Gardens at Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legacy Gardens at Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legacy Gardens at Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: David Gatzke, Cemetery manager, Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery