Harcourt House Building – Edmonton’s Modernist Icon 

Dennis & Freda O’Connor and Maltby Architects and Planning Consultants: Harcourt House Building-Decury Supply Ltd. – Building Elevations and Sections, 1964. Image courtesy of Maltby & Prins Architects.


  • Harcourt House Building was designed by Dennis & Freda O’Connor Architects. The building is one of the classical examples of Edmonton’s Modernism in architecture of the late 1950s/early 1960s, and is a recognizable architectural icon in Edmonton’s Oliver District.
  • Established in 1957, Dennis & Freda O’Connor Architects is credited for its several innovative, award-winning architectural projects in Edmonton and in Alberta. A transplant from U.K. who earned an architectural degree in 1946 from King’s College at Durham University, Freda O’Connor was  the first female architect elected to Alberta Association of Architects in 1966 and, later elected president of Alberta Association of Architects in 1974 – the first female architect in Canada to be so honoured.
  • Designed and built in 1964 for Decury Supply Ltd., the Harcourt House Building is an excellent example of the International Style with its distinctive flat roof, elegant, minimalist form balanced by vertical and horizonal lines with tall vertically composed windows. The use of the single colour brick exterior and complete absence of ornamentation reinforce the building’s minimalist form. The building was designed to appear as a ‘floating’ box on a low podium with the underpass to dematerialize the building’s structural mass. The main entrance is offset, creating an asymmetrical form at the front of the building.
  • Though Dennis and Freda O’Connor’s architectural projects reflected the avant-garde, International Style, they tailored this style to the Alberta landscape by making the buildings low, flat, and horizontal. In line with the Bauhaus tradition, their commercial and residential projects are extremely functional with a great deal of flowing space.
  • Harcourt House Building was featured in the seminal exhibition “Edmonton and the Bauhaus”, which was organized and curated by Jacek Malec, Harcourt’s Executive Director, and presented in September of 2019 in conjunction with the international celebrations of the 100th Anniversary of the Bauhaus School of Design 1919-2019.