Born in Winnipeg in 1940, Garry Hilderman credits his decision to pursue landscape architecture to the influence of courses he took with Dennis Wilkinson at the University of Manitoba, while pursuing a bachelor’s degree at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Architecture. During this time Hilderman was, in addition, working summers at the city’s Kackenhoff Nurseries and at the Winnipeg Parks and Recreation Department. The seeds of this interest thus planted, he transferred to the undergraduate program in Landscape Architecture at the University of Michigan, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1965. Subsequent to this period of study, he obtained a year-long position with Macklin Hancock’s firm, Project Planning Associates, in Toronto. This job was followed with a return to Winnipeg and two years of work with the firm of Man Taylor Muret, Landscape Architects. At this point, Hilderman sensed the need for further academic study and left the city to pursue a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, graduating in 1969. His thesis work here involved research upon shorelines at Whiteshell Provincial Park – a project completed with the aid of Walter Danyluk, head of the Manitoba Parks Branch, who, in 1968 provided a float plane and aerial photographs toward this end. The study was later used by the provincial Parks Branch.
After the completion of his graduate degree, Hilderman returned to Winnipeg to establish the firm of Garry Hilderman & Associates Landscape Architecture. Despite the name, he was in fact practising partnerless, with his first office located in his mother’s attic. The new enterprise quickly captured clients and work and eventually moved to a larger, more formal situation. Many of these early projects were residential in nature and were in in co-operation with such architecture firms as Moody Moore and Associates. As the small start-up gained contracts, it also gained further employees, including such figures as David Witty – later a full partner with the practice.
Much of the work the office was procuring at this time came in northern Manitoba and from Provincial contracts. Amongst other projects, in 1973 Garry Hilderman & Associates worked on the town design for Leafs Rapids Master Plan, developing a plan which sought to function in concert with the context of boreal forest, near arctic conditions and a unique, unified town centre. The office also conducted studies on such issues as hydroelectric flooding and tourism along the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. This busy era was made yet busier in 1972, when Hilderman assumed the role of Assistant Professor with the University of Manitoba Department of Landscape Architecture – a position he held until 1991 and again, from 1997 to 1998.
It was during the early 1970s that Hilderman was also involved in a significant step forward for the profession of landscape architecture in Manitoba – the 1973 establishment of the Manitoba Association of Landscape Architects. In honour of this role, Hilderman is a charter member of the organization; he furthermore served as the organization’s treasurer during its initial year and as its president, from 1979 - 1981.
Over these years, Hilderman’s practice continued to grow and evolve. In 1976, the firm was renamed Hilderman Feir Witty & Associates – acknowledging the partnership status of Witty and Jon Feir. In 1982 the office’s name changed yet again, to Hilderman Witty Crosby Hanna & Associates as the composition of the partners changed once more. The firm gained its present name, Hilderman Thomas Frank Cram, in 1997. Despite all of these changes, Hilderman’s approach has been grounded in a fundamental sense that responsible design arises from a consideration of project and client goals, context and of overlapping biological, physical, social, cultural and economic attributes of land systems. Amongst the projects to which he has brought these aspirations are designs for: the Winnipeg Regional Taxation Data Centre (66 Stapon Road, 1985), where functional ponds abut architecture, creating a unique and interactive exterior space; the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden (Assiniboine Park, 1994); the Forks Commemorative Plaza and Oodena Celebration Circle (1993-1995). The latter of these features a deep bowl gathering space accented with sculptural stone elements designed to evoke a the site’s long history, natural forces, celestial patterns and mythologies. These projects and others have earned Hilderman such awards and distinctions as the Premier's Award for Design Excellence in Landscape Architecture and multiple Canadian Society of Landscape Architects notices of National Honour and Regional Merit. In 1997 Hilderman was also awarded for the design of the National Archives of Canada grounds, which are composed of a naturalized landscape including wetland, woodland, and meadow environments.
Beyond his practice, Hilderman has furthermore had an impact in Winnipeg and elsewhere through his extensive paid and volunteer work on boards and committees, including work with Centre Venture; the Historic Winnipeg Advisory Committee; the National Capital Commission Advisory Committee on Design; the City of Winnipeg Centre Plan Committee; The Forks Renewal Corporation Design Review Committee; the City of Winnipeg Plan Winnipeg Review Urban Image Committee; Balmoral Hall School; Fort Whyte Centre for Environmental Education; Fort Whyte Centre for Environmental Education; the Faculty of Architecture, University of Manitoba, Academic Program Review Committee; and the YMCA Camping Branch.
On November 17, 2010, Garry Hilderman participated in the Order of Canada Investiture Ceremony at Rideau Hall where he was recognized by the Governor General, The Right Honourable David Johnston, for “… his contributions to the creation, development and conservation of community parks, historical sites and environmental projects in Manitoba as a landscape architect and volunteer.”
Garry Hilderman died in January 2016.